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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.
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 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 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.
Teams beat the weather to test at Chicagoland
Weather concerns forced NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams to cram two days of testing into a single day Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway as they prepare for the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 's opening race next month. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The organizational test, which permits one team per organization to participate, was originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick , the 2014 series champion, recorded the top lap time during Tuesday's day-long test with the No. 4 Chevrolet circling the 1.5-mile track in 29.147 seconds (185 mph). Defending series champion Kyle Busch had the second best lap in No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 29.24 seconds (184.6 mph) while Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford) and Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet) had the third and fourth quickest times, respectively. Fourteen teams took part in the test. Harvick completed 222 laps, most among those taking part in the test, while Busch logged 214 according to NASCAR timing and scoring data. "We haven't won here in a few years but I think the performance has been fine over the past two or three years," Harvick, winner of the first two Sprint Cup races hosted by the track," said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to coming back; it's a fun race track just for the fact that you can move around and run all around the race track. That's really the hardest part about today, it's hard to gather a lot of … confirmed information (because) you have to get enough rubber from the bottom to the top of the track to see where everything actually is." Joey Logano finished sixth in last year's Chase opener at Chicago. It's a race that sets the tone for the 10-race playoff, the driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford said. "A lot on the line here and you always want to start off the Chase on a good note and have a lot of momentum leaving Chicago," Logano said. "So far so good. … "This is a great track; to me it almost acts like a small Fontana for us. You can run anywhere you want on the race track, its got a lot of speed and it's bumpy. Its got a ton of character." One more organizational test remains for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, scheduled for Oct. 18-19 at Homestead Miami Speedway. While Sprint Cup teams were testing at Chicagoland, several Camping World Truck Series teams were busy at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Monday and Tuesday. Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates William Byron, Christopher Bell and Cody Coughlin , along with Kaz Grala (GMS Racing) and Stewart Friesen (Halmar Racing) were on hand to test in preparation for the Truck Series' opening Chase race, the UNOH 175 (Sept. 24, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "This is one of my favorite race tracks," Byron, the series' points leader and winner of five races this season, said. "I won here in the K&N Series last year so think I have a lot of confidence here. "It's good to come back with a truck; it handles totally different but it's the same race track. I'm trying to use some of the things I learned last year and hopefully make that apply for when we come back in the Chase." The inaugural Chase in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins at New Hampshire and will feature a field of eight drivers competing for the 2016 championship.
Cain: No need to panic about struggling Hendrick
Who's panicking? Not the Hendrick Motorsports team , as some have suggested. Working overtime, brainstorming, gritting their teeth and rolling up their sleeves? Perhaps. But this organization -- which hasn't celebrated a victory since March -- knows a little something about challenging for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series championships, and it would be naïve and foolhardy to believe the team's summer doldrums are a definitive sign of playoff potential. At least that's what history has shown us. And what Jimmie Johnson tells us. And what team owner Rick Hendrick has assured. "A lot of hard work went on during the break that we had," Johnson said last weekend at Bristol, Tennessee. "Just judging by the excitement from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and all the way through to Mr. Hendrick, we're definitely turning over some stones and are hopeful to bring a little better product to the race track week in and week out. "We've been struggling at times, trying to produce speed and lap times of late and making mistakes in the process. We're still rallying with some decent finishes from time to time, but then again, still having some bad luck. I think Watkins Glen kind of speaks to that as well; and also self-inflicted mistakes. "I think come Chase time, in the middle of the Chase, the way things are looking back at the shop, and the excitement I see in all the departments, we're expecting a good late-season surge for Hendrick Motorsports ." Labor Day -- which traditionally marks the end of summer -- can't come soon enough for this team . Johnson is the only member of this Fab Four lineup to hoist a trophy this season, and the six-time champ did it twice right off the bat -- winning the second race of the year at Atlanta, then three weeks later in California. Chase Elliott opened his rookie campaign with 11 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races, including pole positions for the Daytona 500 and at Talladega Superspeedway . And he capped off that season-starting run with a career-best runner-up at Michigan International Speedway -- where the series returns this weekend. Kasey Kahne is also seeking his first trophy of the year, but already has six top 10s -- more than halfway to his entire total (10) from last year. And he has won at both Michigan (2006 from the pole position) and at Richmond, Virginia (2005), where the Chase field will be formally set on Sept. 10. As the Chase Grid stands now, Kahne is tied with Kyle Larson , three positions shy of qualifying. They trail 16th-place Ryan Newman by 39 points. With Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return still unknown as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, the feared Hendrick foursome realizes it is a threesome come title time. But it remains a championship threat. "Our guys have been working really hard these past few weeks," said Elliott, who is Chase-eligible by being ranked 12th in the standings. "Everybody is fired up at Hendrick Motorsports . Mr. Hendrick himself is fired up -- he has been around the shop a lot. We are all just trying to give it the best effort we can to try and make the most of these next 14 weeks. "We are all working hard, we are all in. Hopefully, Michigan will be a step in the right direction." In the past -- such as during Johnson's jaw-dropping six title runs in eight years – this team has made it look almost too easy. So Toyota has stepped it up, winning its first Cup championship last year with Kyle Busch and collecting 11 trophies already this year. Ford's been every bit a player, as well, with Team Penske drivers -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- earning enough trophies (five) between the two of them to keep the others honest this season. And Hendrick's Chevy "alliance" partner, the Stewart-Haas Racing team , has certainly come to the party with at least three Chase entrants including 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , who won his second race Sunday at Bristol and leads the championship standings; team owner Tony Stewart , who won at Sonoma , California; and Kurt Busch , who is ranked third in points. And while Johnson's two wins and Elliott's poles seem like it's business as usual, there is a new sense of urgency to right the Hendrick ship heading into the Chase. Johnson has the two wins, but he has only three top 10s in the last 14 races, a stretch that also includes four finishes of 30th or worse. Similarly, Elliott hasn't had a top-10 since his runner-up at Michigan. And Kahne has only one top 10 in that time. "We have been struggling this year, have not been as good as we want or should be," Hendrick said over the weekend while admitting he's even gotten up at 4:30 am to go to the wind tunnel with his team . "We know we have the ingredients and we're not satisfied, and we're going to do whatever it takes. That's been our motto all these years. We're at, what, 242 wins in Cup series? And we're not done. "Nobody's satisfied. We've wrecked more cars. … Haven't led races like we usually do. Not making any excuses, we've got to get to work. That's the deal. We're all committed and we're all excited. Nobody stays on top forever but we're not happy where we are and we want to get back." "I'm accountable," Hendrick continued. "They're accountable. "When you're not doing well, you can walk away and point fingers or you can jump in it and say, 'Let's get with it. We know how to do it. Let's get better working together.' "I'm proud of our company and we're going to be better. I like the challenge."
NASCAR penalty report post-Bristol: Warnings issued to several teams
Five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams received written warnings Wednesday for pre-race inspection violations last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway . The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota team for defending series champ Kyle Busch will make its pit stall selection last for this weekend's event at Michigan International Speedway . The team sustained its fourth current warning for failing the laser inspection station (LIS) process twice in last Saturday's pre-race checks. Other teams failing twice in the pre-race LIS platform: -- Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (driver Denny Hamlin ) -- Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet ( Ryan Newman ) -- Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota ( Martin Truex Jr .) The No. 22 Team Penske Ford for driver Joey Logano was issued a written warning for failing LIS twice in pre-qualifying inspections. In other penalty news Wednesday: -- NASCAR issued an indefinite suspension to crew member Ryan Southall for a violation of the NASCAR substance abuse policy. -- Two NASCAR XFINITY Series teams sustained written warnings for failing LIS twice in pre-race inspections at Bristol: The No. 3 Chevrolet driven by Ty Dillon and the No. 93 Chevrolet driven by David Starr .
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 .
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.