NASCAR Inside Track: Team Penske expands, Darlington turns back time
Rick Horrow talks about recent events in the NASCAR world as Team Penske sets to expand their NASCAR XFINITY Series operation back to two teams in 2017 and Darlington Raceway gets set to turn back time in September.
Team Penske expands XFINITY Series team
RELATED: Road to 100: All of Team Penske's Sprint Cup wins MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Coming off of their first NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the season last weekend at Watkins Glen International with driver Joey Logano , Team Penske today announced plans to return their XFINITY Series operation to a two-car Ford Mustang effort in 2017. The second Team Penske entry also clears the way for Ford Performance to use this entry as an extension of their new driver development program as both organizations continue to build for the future. "Our NASCAR XFINITY Series program has been one of the best in the series since we started running full-time in 2009," said team owner Roger Penske . "For several years, we ran it as a two-car operation and then decided to focus primarily on the No. 22 for the last few years. Along the way, we developed a lot of people that have moved into our Cup programs, including all of our current NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chiefs. We want to win another XFINITY Series Championship while continuing to utilize our program to build human capital." Team Penske 's NXS program ran sparingly between 2001 and 2008, winning nine races with drivers Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch . The team began competing full-time in 2009 and earned the NXS Driver's Championship with Brad Keselowski in 2010. Since joining Ford in 2013, Team Penske has earned 29 XFINITY Series wins and has won back-to-back-to-back NXS Owners' Championships. "Obviously, we've really enjoyed our relationship with Team Penske and the success that they've brought to the Ford family in the NASCAR XFINITY Series," said Dave Pericak, Director of Ford Performance. "The addition of a second Team Penske XFINITY Series car will allow all of us to work on developing talent behind the wheel and across the board. A driver and sponsorship on the second Ford Mustang will be announced at a later date. Since its inception, Team Penske has earned 55 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins, 53 pole positions and four championships. Newman, Busch, Justin Allgaier , Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr ., Logano, AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Blaney have all visited victory lane for Team Penske in the XFINITY Series.
Logano celebrates Team Penske's first NXS win of 2016
Joey Logano celebrates in Victory Lane after grabbing Team Penske's first NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the year in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.
Team Penske : Back-to-back babies to go along with wins
RELATED: Where does 2 crew stack up midseason? Team Penske's No. 2 crew members had double the reason to celebrate Brad Keselowski 's back-to-back victories at Daytona and Kentucky in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. That's because jackman Braxton Brannon and gasman Nick Hensley both added to their families during the joyous past two weeks. Anyone who has ever been involved in the waiting process understands the stress of having a baby. The due dates were only three days apart and both guys had been on wait for the past two weeks. But the babies arrived safely on opposite ends of the Kentucky weekend and the crew members didn't miss a beat. For the Brannon family it was their first child. They welcomed a baby girl on July 7. For the Hensley family, they welcomed their second boy on July 11. "It was a tough decision to go to that race while they were still in the hospital," Brannon said. "Caroline told me to go and I think it was the right decision. Caroline is doing great now and the baby." Hensley echoed his feeling of relief. "I knew the next two races (after Sonoma) were Saturday night races, and close enough to home that Team Penske would do everything they could to get me home in a hurry if something happened," Hensley said. "I was more nervous for Braxton, this was my second child and I had stayed home from the Talladega race in 2014 for the birth of my first child, and I didn't want him to miss that special moment with his family." So three weeks ago the No. 2 crew had two wins on the season and a total of one kid between the six over-the-wall guys. Now, two weeks later, the team has two more wins and two more family members. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Logano wins Penske -dominated race at Watkins Glen
Related: Results WATKINS GLEN, N. Y. – Joey Logano finally finished what he started. The driver of the No. 12 Ford won Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Watkins Glen International from the pole, giving Team Penske its first XFINITY victory in what has been a disappointing season so far. The win in the Zippo 200 was the second straight at the 2.45-mile road course for the 26-year-old driver, who led 67 of 82 laps and drove his car to the limit, keeping teammate Brad Keselowski behind him until a broken track bar mount forced Keselowski's No. 22 Ford out of the race after 79 laps. Keselowski's problem gave Logano some breathing room. Though Paul Menard was making up ground in the closing laps, he finished second, 1.517 seconds behind Logano, who collected the 26th victory of his career. The win was the sixth for Team Penske in the Zippo 200. In addition to Logano, Kurt Busch won the event twice, and Ryan Newman and Keselowski once each. "Brad gave me a run for my money, that's for sure," Logano said of Saturday's race. "He was just as fast as me, maybe faster. I never ran so many qualifying laps inside the car. I was running as hard as I possibly could, and I wasn't sure if my car would last, running that hard, but she held together just long enough. "I couldn’t be more proud to be here in Victory Lane. This is big for Team Penske on the XFINITY side of things. Great to get a win for them." Logano swept the XFINITY and Sprint Cup weekend at The Glen last year. Kyle Larson ran third on Saturday, followed by Daniel Suarez and Trevor Bayne . Series points leader Elliott Sadler , Justin Allgaier , Brendan Gaughan , Ryan Reed and Brennan Poole – all XFINITY regulars – completed the top 10. Keselowski finished 24th and understandably had mixed feelings about the outcome. "It looked like a bad weld broke," he said of the track bar issue. "I don't know what to say about that. You can't win races in the garage. Joey and I were both really fast, and if either one of us got in the lead it was obvious we were going to drive away. "That's something to be really proud of. We had very fast Ford Mustangs today, and congrats to Joey on the win. It's good for the program to see Team Penske get in Victory Lane today. I wish it could have been us, but I am happy for Joey and all those guys." The race featured six cautions for 18 laps. The most massive incident was a multi-car pileup in the esses on Lap 18 that eliminated Kyle Busch , who is attempting to win a race on all active XFINITY tracks at which he has competed. Currently, he lacks only Watkins Glen and Pocono to complete the feat. Saturday’s race also had a healthy dose of the bizarre. On Lap 59, Derrike Cope 's No. 70 Chevrolet slowed and came to a stop in the runoff area beside the Inner Loop. After a few seconds, an explosion rocked the car, blowing the hood off its pinions and sending a billow of black smoke skyward. Cope was unhurt in the incident, but baffled as to the cause of the explosion. Tweeting as he watched the broadcast, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . wrote: "Reminds me of when I used to put M80s in the models I built." The XFINITY Series returns to the track Aug. 13 for the series standalone race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (3:30 p.m. ET USA/MRN/Sirius XM).
Logano wins after part failure ends Penske 1-2 finish
Joey Logano grabs Team Penske's first NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the year after teammate Brad Keselowski broke his rear track bar in the final laps while running second in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.
Keselowski: Team Penske's safety changes worked during Watkins Glen wreck
Brad Keselowski speaks to several changes Team Penske made following a 2011 testing wreck, which help Brad walk away from his No. 2 Ford following a crash during testing at Watkins Glen International on Tuesday.
Multicar melee snaps Kurt Busch streak, thins Bristol field
RELATED: Full race results A late-race battle for the lead transformed into an 11-car melee in Sunday's rain-plagued NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway , ending Kurt Busch 's historic streak of lead-lap finishes at 22. Busch was battling for the lead just after a Lap 372 restart when his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet pitched loose out of Turn 2 on the .533-mile track. His car collected Brad Keselowski 's Team Penske No. 2 Ford, sending the front-runners scrambling behind them. Austin Dillon , Matt Kenseth , Ryan Blaney , Joey Logano , Chase Elliott , Paul Menard , Kyle Larson , Brian Scott and Jimmie Johnson were the other drivers listed as involved in the ninth caution period of the rain-delayed Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Of those, Dillon, Logano and Johnson drove away with only minor damage to salvage top-10 finishes. Busch wound up completing 372 of the 500 laps Sunday, sidelined by a DNF for the first time this season. He said that he misjudged the sticky rosin applied to the low side of the turns, triggering the pile-up. "I think I just missed the bottom groove by a few inches, got loose and the wreck was on," said Busch, who ended up in 38th place. "The way that our car was restarting it felt comfortable, it felt good. That inside with the rosin and the VHT (traction compound) if you don't hit it exactly right, you lose a lot of time. I tried to make up for it and got loose. I feel really bad for the Monster Energy guys. We had a win in our sights and I just drove the car at 101 percent instead of that 99." Keselowski, who finished 33rd, said he had little room to escape. "He got loose and by the time I saw it, I was already making contact with him," Keselowski said. "It was kind of one of those Bristol things. I hate it because we were making improvements on the car and we had gotten up to third there and the race was kind of coming to us." Kenseth, a four-time winner at Bristol, now has three consecutive finishes at the .533-mile track of 35th or worse. His Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota was nudged into a spin by Elliott then sideswiped by fellow rookie Blaney. "I didn't really see what happened except for there were cars wrecking up there and I slowed down as much as the guy in front of me," Kenseth said. "I couldn't slow down any less than that or I would hit him. Chase busted out of nowhere, ran me over and the 21 (Blaney) came through there wide open -- I still don't know if he's lifted yet or not -- and finished us off. As the wreck happened, you've got to slow down. Just not much I could do."
The Rundown: Bristol driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Driver standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway : 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This says it all about Harvick's second win at Bristol: In 112 Cup races at the track, only four winners started farther back in the field than Harvick's 24th ( Elliott Sadler , 38th, 2001; Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 30th, 2004; Kurt Busch , 27th, 2002; Dale Earnhardt, 26th, 1999). Grade: A++ 2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse overcame a pit-road speeding penalty to tie his career-best finish, which also came at Bristol (2014). In fact, half of Stenhouse's six career top-five finishes have come at Bristol. Grade: A+ 3. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . It was a day of eighths for Hamlin: His eighth top five of the season and his eighth pit-road speeding penalty. He also had to make an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel that put him two laps down. Nice recovery, but he absolutely has to stick a fork in those pit-road speeding penalties before the Chase begins. Grade: A- 4. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon just avoided the big wreck on Lap 373 to post his first top five since Talladega in May. Also important: Dillon moved up two spots in the Chase standings to 13th, passing Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott . Grade: A 5. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Huge day for Buescher, who gets his second career top five -- both in the past three races -- and moves into the top 30 in points for the first time this season. Grade: A+ 6. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Debris piercing the right front of his car couldn't stop Edwards from getting his 14th top 10 of the season, one fewer than he had all of 2015. Grade: A 7. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Hard to believe, but Johnson's finish was only his second top 10 in the past 10 races. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray's Chase radar is on max. He's 15th in the Chase standings after his fourth top 10 in the past six races. Grade: A 9. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger posts back-to-back top 10s for the second time this season, the first time he has had multiple back-to-back top-10 finishes in a season in his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . We don't have the space to list all the issues Logano and the No. 22 had to overcome Sunday. This top 10 was hard earned and well deserved. Grade: A 11. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . In the 801st and possibly final start of his career, Gordon gets his best finish in his fourth race as Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s sub. Grade: B 12. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne jumped over Kyle Larson in the standings and picked up ground on Ryan Newman , who leads Bayne by 35 points for the last spot in the Chase with three races to go before the field is set. Grade: B 13. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . With Chris Buescher entering the top 30, Kahne went from 11 points behind 16th place in the Chase standings to 39 points back. Grade: B 14. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola posted his best finish of the season since finishing 13th in Week 4 at Phoenix. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott's promising day took a hit when he was collected in the big wreck on Lap 373. On the flip side, he led 14 laps, his first laps led since Week 15 at Michigan. Grade: B 16. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . A miscommunication over the radio that resulted in an unscheduled green-flag pit stop didn't help matters. Grade: B- 17. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto posted the second-best finish of his young career despite being down three laps at one point because of a tire issue. His best finish? Sixth at Bristol in April. Grade: A 18. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott turned in his second-best finish of the season (12th at Fontana in Week 5). Grade: A 19. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell finishes in the top 20 in consecutive races for the first time in his 201-race Cup career. Grade: A 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassill finished 22nd in April to tie his best finish at Bristol. Sunday, he topped that. Grade: A 21. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan avoided disaster with a great evasive maneuver down low to avoid a spinning Kyle Busch on Lap 358. Grade: B 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick finished 22nd for the third time in the past four races. Her other finish in that stretch: 21st two weeks ago at Watkins Glen. Grade: C 23. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Bad luck found Truex again. He was running third on Lap 358 when he was collected in a wreck caused by Kyle Bush's spin and the No. 78 suffered heavy damage. His average running position of 9.6 was fifth best. Grade: A- 24. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson had an eventful day, and that’s not code for a great day. A pit-road speeding penalty, cut oil line, three on-track incidents (neither his fault) and untimely tire rub totally erased the benefit of having a super-fast car. Grade: B- 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears has one top 10 in 28 starts at Bristol giving him the lowest top-10 percentage among active drivers with at least 15 Cup starts at the track. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith brought out the third caution when he got into the wall on Lap 157; attrition enabled him to post a top-30 finish. Grade: C- 27. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson tied Regan Smith for the fewest green-flag passes with six. Grade: C- 28. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Pit-road penalties and tire problems carried (dropped?) the day. Still, Newman is 16th in the Chase standings with a 35-point cushion over Trevor Bayne with three races to go. Grade: D 29. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32, Go Fas Racing Ford. Earnhardt improved three spots from his debut at Bristol in April. Grade: C- 30. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . We'll let Tony sum up his final start at Bristol: "We had a wheel that was loose, and that messed our whole day up." Perhaps, but owner Tony got a win and was part of a double burnout with winner Kevin Harvick . Grade: D 31. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A broken brake rotor put Bowyer into the wall on Lap 416. Grade D 32. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard was running in the top 10 when he got caught up in the aftermath of Kurt Busch 's spin and his car sustained a punctured radiator when he ran into Chase Elliott . That's Bristol. Grade: C- 33. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski was running third when Kurt Busch got loose in front of him, turned and Keselowski hit him hard. Keselowski had run among the leaders until the accident on Lap 373. Grade: C 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The No. 98 spent time in the garage, and Whitt finished 58 laps off the pace. Grade: D 35. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney was caught up in the Kurt Busch wreck. As cars checked up, Blaney slammed into Matt Kenseth , who had been turned by Chase Elliott . Blaney returned to the track, but when the day ended he had little to show for a top-five starting spot. Grade: C 36. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise completed 416 laps, his fewest at Bristol since 2012, his rookie season. Grade: F 37. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . A so-so day at Bristol became a no-no day when Kenseth was collected in the Kurt Busch wreck. Since a four-race run of 1st, 13th, 3rd and 1st, Kenseth has now gone 42nd, 36th and 37th. That's Bristol, too. Grade: C 38. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Finally we come to the driver who miscalculated his move "by a few inches"and ignited the wreck on Lap 373 that collected 10 other cars. Busch later tweeted, "Tasted the checkers, pushed too hard too soon." No argument here. Busch had completed every lap run this season until Sunday. Grade: F 39. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch led a race-high 256 laps and owned the day until something broke in his car (his team will hear about that on Tuesday, he said). The No. 18 went into a soft spin, but it was met with a hard hit by Justin Allgaier that left Busch with his third DNF in his past four races at Bristol, all for crashes. Grade: C- 40. Justin Allgaier , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Subbing for Michael Annett (flu-like symptoms), Allgaier made his first Sprint Cup start of the season one day after finishing second in the XFINITY Series race at Bristol. Two days later he earned the wrath of Kyle Busch for plowing into him when Busch spun out on Lap 358. That's the high and lows of Bristol. Grade: F </p>
Did you know ...? Team Penske fast facts at win 100
Saturday night's win at Daytona International Speedway by Brad Keselowski was the 100th for Team Penske in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. The historic victory came during a season in which Team Penske is celebrating its 50-year anniversary. The journey to 100 is, of course, filled with numbers and some quirky stats. Here are some interesting tidbits, courtesy of Team Penske : • In two of Team Penske's 100 wins, the winning driver led only one lap. Both times in 2015 with Brad Keselowski at Auto Club Speedway and Joey Logano at Watkins Glen. • Fifteen of Team Penske's 100 wins have come from the pole position. • Brad Keselowski dominated at Richmond International Raceway in 2014, leading 96 percent of the laps. That is the highest percentage of laps led by a winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition for Team Penske . • Team Penske drivers have scored 12 wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, the most wins at a single track for the team . Rusty Wallace leads all Team Penske drivers with seven victories at the .533-mile track. • Both Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch won their first race with Team Penske at Bristol. • The No. 2 for Team Penske has scored 64 victories. Rusty Wallace has 37, Brad Keselowski has 19 and Kurt Busch has eight. • In Team Penske's 100 victories, winning drivers led 12,295 laps en route to Victory Lane. • Rusty Wallace scored 10 victories in 1993, the most wins for a Team Penske driver in a single season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. • In 2014, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano teamed to score 11 victories, the most for Team Penske in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. • Rusty Wallace started 33rd at New Hampshire in 1993, the deepest a Team Penske driver has started and won. • Team Penske's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came in the 1973 Winston Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway with driver Mark Donohue. • In addition to the familiar 2, 12 and 22 numbers for Team Penske , the team also fielded the No. 16 for NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in the 1970s, with Allison scoring three of the car's four victories. • Rusty Wallace and Joey Logano are the only drivers to win three races in a row for Team Penske . Wallace accomplished this twice, in 1993 winning Bristol, North Wilkesboro and Martinsville in succession, and in 1994 winning Dover, Pocono and Michigan. Logano accomplished this in 2015 by winning at Charlotte, Kansas, and Talladega in the Round of 12 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. • Forty-nine of the 100 wins came with the winning driver starting within the top five. • Team Penske has scored a Sprint Cup Series victory every year since 1991.