Melding Team Penske and SHR forges a stronger Ford
RELATED: Race recap " Results " Standings It isn't unprecedented, but it is impressive. For the first time since 2009, and only the second since 1992, Ford teams have won the season's first two races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Meanwhile, six of the top 10 drivers in the point standings come from the Ford camp and this year's two winners -- Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski -- have put themselves squarely in line for the season-ending 10-race playoffs. Granted, winning early and often isn't unusual -- Chevrolet teams won the first three races of the 2010 season and a whopping 13 of 14 out of the gate in '07. Three of the past five seasons have seen a more balanced beginning with each of the three manufacturers -- Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota -- winning one of the first three races in various orders. It's ridiculously early to be calling anything a trend. The two season-opening Ford wins in '09 didn't portend of great things for the company that year -- only one more win came its way the remainder of the season. But the past year or so has provided much in the way of Ford's renewed commitment to NASCAR as part of the Ford Performance program. Meanwhile, the early returns on the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing to the fold have been nothing but positive. In addition to Busch's Daytona 500 victory, Kevin Harvick managed everything but collecting the trophy in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta. Harvick won the first two stages and led all but 33 laps of the 325-lap race. Both Busch and Harvick compete for SHR. Team Penske has shouldered the majority of the workload for Ford in recent seasons while Roush Fenway Racing tries to re-establish itself as a contender. They aren't the only kids on the Ford block, just the two most successful. But with SHR so competitive so soon, it's hard not to notice. "We're racers," Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition for SHR, told NASCAR.com. "We're old-school racers. Our guys have worked hard to get everything done; I know everyone says that, but they worked long hours and they did it every day" to complete the switch from Chevrolet to Ford. MORE: Harvick tops Stages 1, 2 " No win, but plenty of success for Harvic k SHR fields four cars at NASCAR's top level for drivers Harvick, Busch, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick. The organization also added one full-time and one part-time XFINITY Series team this year. More than 100 new employees were added as SHR began building its own chassis and various other machine-shop items. "And anytime you add people, you don't know how long it will take for everyone to get settled and things start to flow," Zipadelli said. Team Penske has ruled the Ford roost from almost the time it left Dodge after a championship season in 2012. The majority of the 14 Ford victories in 2014 came from Team Penske drivers Keselowski and Joey Logano; the following year all seven Ford victories came from Team Penske ; and a year ago it was seven of eight. Close-knit alliances often result in improved results on the track for all parties. Toyota-branded Furniture Row Racing obviously benefited from its association with Joe Gibbs Racing last season and should do so again this year; the SHR/Hendrick pipeline saw two drivers win titles in a three-year period with Harvick in '14 and Jimmie Johnson last season. Team Penske has stayed to itself, going it alone, however. "We pretty much played by ourselves, and I think that that's made us much stronger," said team owner Roger Penske . But he said he realizes the advantages of working alongside a fellow "branded" organization, and SHR has provided that opportunity. "We knew coming in with Stewart‑Haas that they were going to be guys that could set a bar for us," Penske said. "In fact, we built some chassis for them before Daytona, some center sections, and we had our cars in the wind tunnel and compared them. So we know what they have and they know what we have." Seeing an increase in the number of Ford teams running out front and in the top five is a good sign for those organizations. Perhaps the competitive gap has narrowed a bit. "You know how strong the Toyotas have been and the Chevys have been," Penske said. "This gives (Ford teams) at least a chance to say we're on par with these guys. Now, with a couple of wins I'd have to say we might be an inch or two ahead." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Born: Feb. 20, 1937 Hometown: Shaker Heights, Ohio Championships Premier: 2012 XFINITY: 2013, ’14, ’15 Premier Series Owner Stats Competed: 1972-present (Stats as of 2016) Starts: 1,876 Wins: 103 Poles: 119 Years on Ballot: 1 Roger Penske is known, simply, as "The Captain." A true captain of industry, Penske has steered one of the most successful motorsports ships in the sport's history. Penske , who celebrated his 50th anniversary in racing in 2016, reached a major milestone and collected a prestigious award during the golden anniversary season. That year, he reached 100 wins in NASCAR's premier series and capped of the season by receiving the Bill France Award of Excellence. Penske won the premier series championship in 2012 with driver Brad Keselowski, and owns two Daytona 500 wins with Ryan Newman in 2008 and Joey Logano in 2015. And from 2013-15, Penske tied a record with three consecutive owner championship in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Off the track, Penske likewise left an indelible mark. He built the two-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in 1996, and previously owned Michigan International Speedway.
Penske happy with Ford camaraderie
Team Penkse owner Roger Penske talks about the benefits of having more Fords on-track this season after Stewart-Haas switched manufacturers.
Auto Club Speedway by the numbers
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary RELATED: Full weekend schedule Jimmie Johnson was driving a Superman car and wearing a cape the last time he saw Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' stop there in 2016. It's appropriate since he almost owns the place. Johnson has six wins at Auto Club, spanning a decade and a half. He also has five runner-up finishes, an impressive average finishing place of 6.5 and has led 980 laps around the 2-mile circuit in Fontana, California. Roger Penske has a stake in the place as well, having been one of the architects, alongside Les "Coach" Richter. The track officially opened June 22, 1997, and it's celebrating its 20th anniversary as NASCAR returns to Fontana this weekend for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and XFINITY Series racing. Penske got his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at the track on April 29, 2001 with Rusty Wallace piloting the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Brad Keselowski put Team Penske back in Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway in 2015. Penske's open wheel drivers also have had success at the track. Penske built a fast race track, leading to some stout stats in the speedway's lore: -- A 188.511 mph qualifying speed record set by Denny Hamlin in 2016 -- A 155.012 mph race speed record set by Jeff Gordon in 1997 Digging into the numbers a bit more: -- Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, the most of any team -- Ford has 11 wins at the track, and Chevrolet has 13. Kyle Busch has taken home two Auto Club 400 trophies for Toyota in back-to-back races in 2013-14. -- Farthest back in the field a winning driver started: 31st, Matt Kenseth, spring of 2006 -- Pole-sitting winners: Only one, Johnson in 2008 -- The closest margin of victory was 0.144 seconds, as Kevin Harvick edged Johnson in 2011
Nos. 2, 4 teams penalized after violations at Phoenix
RELATED: Details on NASCAR's deterrence system NASCAR levied L1-level penalties against the No. 2 car of Team Penske and the No. 4 car of Stewart-Haas Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Wednesday following Sunday's race at Phoenix Raceway. The violation for the No. 2 car is detailed in sections 188.8.131.52.2 of the NASCAR Rule Book (post-race general inspection measurements), and driver Brad Keselowski's fifth-place finish in the Camping World 500 is encumbered, per section 12.10 of the NASCAR Rule Book. Meanwhile, the violation for the No. 4 car is detailed in sections 184.108.40.206 I-4 of the NASCAR Rule Book (track bar mount and supports) and driver Kevin Harvick's sixth-place finish at Phoenix is encumbered. As a result of the violation, No. 2 crew chief Paul Wolfe was fined $65,000 and suspended from the next three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points races. The team was assessed with the loss of 35 driver points and 35 owner points. Brian Wilson will serve as the No. 2 team's crew chief this weekend at Auto Club Speedway while the team "evaluates our approach relative to today's penalties," Team Penske said in a statement. Appearing on a Wednesday night edition of FS1's "NASCAR Race Hub," Keselowski discussed the impact of not having Wolfe atop the pit box and his history with Wilson. "Well, first off, my crew chief, Paul Wolfe, is an elite crew chief, and I feel really lucky to have him, " Keselowski told the program. "...To lose a guy like that, it definitely hurts. He's a great asset to our team , but this is one of those setbacks that I think every team faces and we're just going to have to get through it. It looks like it’s going to be a handful of races and we’ll do the best we can during that time. "The good thing about Brian Wilson is he comes from the XFINITY side as a crew chief who just won with Joey Logano at Las Vegas. But even before that, he was on the 2 team as the lead engineer, so a lot of knowledge and experience, and we look forward to working together with him." The No. 4 crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $25,000 and suspended from the next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points race. The team was assessed with the loss of 10 driver and 10 team owner points. On Thursday morning, Stewart-Haas Racing officials said that the organization "has officially requested an appeal hearing regarding the penalties ... and have also requested a deferral of the penalties until the appeal process is complete." The appeal request means that Childers will be allowed to participate in this weekend's race activities at Auto Club. Team Penske also has the option to file an appeal to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel. As of Thursday morning, the team was still evaluating its options. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;g
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Owner Standings
MORE: XFINITY owner standings " Camping World owner standings Owner Car # Points Ldr Behind leader Nxt Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff points Attempts 1 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 184 0 0 0 0 0 4 2 Hendrick Motorsports 24 171 -13 -13 0 1 1 4 3 Furniture Row Racing 78 153 -31 -18 1 2 7 4 4 Team Penske 2 143 -41 -10 1 0 5 4 5 Team Penske 22 135 -49 -8 0 1 1 4 6 Wood Brothers Racing 21 127 -57 -8 0 0 0 4 7 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 119 -65 -4 0 0 0 4 8 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 113 -71 -6 0 3 3 4 9 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 105 -79 -8 1 0 5 4 10 Hendrick Motorsports 5 105 -79 0 0 0 0 4 11 Richard Childress Racing 31 101 -83 -4 1 0 5 4 12 Roush Fenway Racing 6 100 -84 -1 0 0 0 4 13 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 97 -87 -3 0 1 1 4 14 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 97 -87 0 0 0 0 4 15 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 97 -87 0 0 0 0 4 16 Hendrick Motorsports 48 93 -91 -4 0 0 0 4 17 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 90 -94 -3 0 0 0 4 18 Furniture Row Racing 77 82 -102 -8 0 0 0 4 19 Richard Childress Racing 27 78 -106 -4 0 0 0 4 20 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 72 -112 -6 0 0 0 4 21 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 72 -112 0 0 0 0 4 22 Roush Fenway Racing 17 71 -113 -1 0 0 0 4 23 Hendrick Motorsports 88 70 -114 -1 0 0 0 4 24 Germain Racing 13 68 -116 -2 0 0 0 4 25 Richard Childress Racing 3 66 -118 -2 0 0 0 4 26 Leavine Family Racing 95 62 -122 -4 0 0 0 4 27 GO FAS Racing 32 56 -128 -6 0 0 0 4 28 Front Row Motorsports 34 55 -129 -1 0 0 0 4 29 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 52 -132 -3 0 0 0 4 30 TriStar Motorsports 72 50 -134 -2 0 0 0 4 31 Premium Motorsports 15 48 -136 -2 0 0 0 4 32 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 39 -145 -9 0 0 0 4 33 JTG Daugherty Racing 37 39 -145 0 0 0 0 4 34 Front Row Motorsports 38 37 -147 -2 0 0 0 4 35 Beard Motorsports 175 26 -158 -11 0 0 0 1 36 Circle Sport / TMG 33 21 -163 -5 0 0 0 4 37 BK Racing 23 19 -165 -2 0 0 0 4 38 BK Racing 83 18 -166 -1 0 0 0 4 39 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 17 -167 -1 0 0 0 1 40 Rick Ware Racing 51 7 -177 -10 0 0 0 4 41 Premium Motorsports 55 7 -177 0 0 0 0 4 42 Gaunt Brothers Racing 96 1 -183 -6 0 0 0 1
Logano, crew chief, Shell/Pennzoil re-sign with Team Penske
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Logano nabs victory in 'The Clash' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Legendary team owner Roger Penske announced Friday a multi-year contract extension with driver Joey Logano , his crew chief Todd Gordon and the Shell/Pennzoil brand that will go through the year 2022 and beyond. The Team Penske namesake emphasized the special nature of the long-term and global business-to-business partnership and especially the example his team has set for the sport in its affiliation with Shell/Pennzoil. "It gave us a chance to combine the business side and also we've used motorsports as a common thread," Penske said. "We're trying to create some value of competitiveness in our business. "For us to say we have a partnership with Shell beyond 2022 is massive for us, not just here but across the business. We've got Joey Logano for the same period and we have Todd Gordon, we think this is one of the biggest announcements in motorsports today. When you talk about the health of the sport, we consider this a watershed time." "This is 30-plus races per year," Penske continued. "We're not going to be changing the logos on the car every other week. This isn't just an announcement about a sponsor, it's about a business relationship … quite honestly it's the foundation of our whole business." Logano was equally as enthused about this opportunity, acknowledging both the rarity of such a long-term contract and the promise the move makes. "It's an amazing honor and opportunity for me," Logano said. "Obviously signing with Team Penske is a huge change in my career. I've learned to surround myself with greatness, people 'smarter than you.' When you think about 22 team and how close we’'ve grown together -- it's a huge advantage for us as a race team to keep the continuity. "I'm very fortunate and exited about this. This was one of those decisions that was a no-brainer. A lot of pressure comes along with this. … I love pressure. Pressure is a privilege and it honestly is a privilege to have this opportunity to race for Roger Penske and Shell and Pennzoil. "(The) fact it all goes together is unheard of. It's a very positive story in our sport to see the commitment of Shell and Pennzoil. It really sets a statement for not only Team Penske but NASCAR as a sport." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Penske proves plate tracks take more than just luck
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Logano signs new long-term deal DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- If the headline to this story doesn't read: Logano says, 'I don't know what the hell I'm doing,' don't blame the Team Penske driver. "That's the headline right there," Logano says, laughing. Clearly that isn't the case. When it comes to restrictor-plate racing, Logano, 26, obviously knows a thing or two. In fact, he and teammate Brad Keselowski have become two of the best at understanding the nuances of the draft and pack racing on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ' two biggest venues -- Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway . Since the fall Talladega race of 2014, the two have won six of nine races at the two tracks, including Logano's win in the Daytona 500 two years ago. Last season, the duo went three-for-four in plate races. "I've learned a lot about this whole thing, mainly because I just started studying it," Logano said of his recent success in plate races. "I had to." There was a time, he said, when he bought into the belief that success on the restrictor-plate tracks was simply a product of luck. Finding oneself in the right place at the right time. Choosing the right line instead of the wrong one. Guesswork at 200 mph. "But when you look at statistics, that's not the case," he said. "If it was luck, there would be a different winner every single time. But it's not." It's strategy. Understanding the draft and not only which moves to make, but when to make them. Likewise, the crew chiefs have to understand "what to do and when to do it. Spotters understanding everything," he said. "I guess as a driver and as a team we put the effort into it and we see some results because of it. What does Roger ( Penske , team owner) say all the time? 'The harder I work the luckier I get?' " It's also being able to process all that information, combine it with what a driver knows about his car and those around him and making decisions in the blink of an eye. Something of what Keselowski describes as a "culture change" at Team Penske has had an impact as well. "I think we got really tired of people saying that restrictor-plate tracks were about luck," the 2012 series champion said. "And the culture really changed for us when, as a company, we decided this isn't luck anymore, this is a concerted effort to put on your best moves, your best face, your best cars and quit saying it's luck. "As soon as we stopped saying that at Team Penske we had a lot more success. I think it's a lot more about culture than anything else." RELATED: Logano nabs victory at 'The Clash' after wild final lap Physically, restrictor-plate racing might be the easiest form of NASCAR competition. Mentally it's the most taxing. "Mentally you're just completely shot," Logano said. "It's like your computer is just on overload with all the information. And some computers work quicker than others, right? It's a mental race." Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who will start on the outside of the front row for Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) is an accomplished plate racer. So too are Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), the defending Daytona 500 champion, Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) and Kyle Busch (JGR). Toss in Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray as well. Logano said he isn't surprised that those are the drivers most often competing for wins and finishing in the top five on a regular basis at Daytona and Talladega. "They just get it," he said. "They know what to do. They make these moves on the race track and you go 'Yeah!' You'll see only those guys do it. "Every now and again you'll see those moves happen and you're like 'They knew what the hell was going on.' It all came together. And then you see other people that go for it and sometimes it doesn't work out; they may luck into one every now and again, they may completely lose it and go all the way to the back. Some guys just ride and they pick them off as some cars go backwards. But you're never going to get to the lead that way. "You have to be confident in your decision and the only way you're confident is through prep. Without preparation you can't be confident in anything. That's how I look at it." Keselowski scored his first Monster Energy Cup Series win in a restrictor-plate race, at Talladega in '09. It was career start No. 5 and helped open the door to his arrival at Team Penske . Five of his 21 career wins have come on the plate tracks. Looking back on past races, Keselowski said he's "almost embarrassed" by what he sees. "Because I see all the moves that were open," and not taken, he said. "I think that speaks to just having the experience and to learning the tactics and those changing, evolving, being developed. "Certainly the sport has changed and the drivers continue to get better. But the basics continue to be the same -- you've always had to have a good car to win this race. You're going to have to have a good car to win it this year, but you're going to have to have those tactics right."
Albert: Hendrick, JGR, Penske should be prime players Sunday
RELATED: Daytona schedule " Starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's no such thing as a clear-cut favorite for Sunday's Daytona 500. After six days of on-track activity for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , several camps can lay claim to having an edge, but singling out one driver is akin to a roulette wheel's spin. "We come down here a lot of years. You kind of pick a guy," said Jamie McMurray , the 2010 champion of the 500 who will start third in this year's running. "If he finishes, he's going to be there in the end. I think there's 10 guys that have a legitimate shot to win this year." What is clear is that Sunday's winner of the Great American Race (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will have the benefit of a fast horse, potential assistance from teammates and the combination of an adept spotter and a frequently-used mirror. And if conventional wisdom holds serve, Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports should be the prime players in that game. Preliminary races -- Thursday's Duel qualifiers and last weekend's "The Clash" exhibition from a busy Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway -- have shown that a strong leading car has the ability to change lanes and stem the aerodynamic momentum from an onrushing line of cars. The Duels showed the powerful but precarious nature of leading: In the first 150-miler, polesitter Chase Elliott staved off the pack with a series of blocks to lead the final 24 laps. In the nightcap, Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- who led for 53 circuits -- zigged too late when Denny Hamlin zagged with two laps left, and Hamlin led an organized aero charge to the checkers. MORE: Logano wins 'The Clash' " Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results "Because the way the lanes form, it's just power in numbers," said Elliott, the 500's Coors Light Pole Award winner for the second straight year. "It's a power in what cars are lined up in what row, how they're stacked against you, whether they're two-wide or three-wide behind you. There certainly are guys that do a good job. Once they get out front they're tough to get by. We see that all the time at these places." RELATED: Elliott joins elite in back-to-back 'Great American Race' pole wins Momentum can be an intangible in other sports, the vibe of a winning streak or the underlying oomph of the tide turning in a certain game. In NASCAR -- and especially in the restrictor-plate genre of stock-car racing -- it's a palpable phenomenon. While aerodynamics can be a great equalizer for underdogs, the power of Penske's pair of Fords driven by Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski stands out. But so does the muscle flexed by defending 500 champion Hamlin and his flotilla of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. And it's unwise to count out Hendrick & Co.; which monopolized the front row in qualifying with Elliott and Earnhardt. MORE: Penske proves plate tracks take more than just luck One thing is all but certain, especially when it gets to crunch time with the Harley J. Earl Trophy on the line: The cat-and-mouse between the race leader and the pack will be more exacting, with far more take than give. "I'm sure that will be amped up Sunday," Elliott said after his Duel win. "I think it was similar to what you'll see."
SHR's move to Ford brings new relationship for Team Penske
RELATED: Recapping 2017 Media Tour CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The lines of communication between Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske are open, but it's yet to be determined how each organization will benefit in the coming season. "There are definitely a lot of different avenues where we can work together," Team Penske driver Joey Logano said during Wednesday's NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway . "It is always an interesting relationship because we still have to race each other but we want to see how we can both grow and make Ford a powerhouse manufacturer … get them a manufacturer's championship and have both our organizations win more races. That's the ultimate goal." Team Penske , which joined the Ford camp in 2013, fields two full-time entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Logano and 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski . Stewart-Haas Racing made the switch from Chevrolet to Ford after the completion of the 2016 season. It's driver lineup consists of 2014 champion Kevin Harvick , 2004 champ Kurt Busch , Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick . Logano and Keselowski have won 25 times under the Ford banner since the start of '14; SHR drivers have 17 wins over that same period. "Teaming with SHR is a smart move and an impressive move by Ford," Logano said. "It shows their commitment to what they are trying to do and their investment in our sport." RELATED: Ford expects to come out firing with SHR in mix Roush Fenway Racing , Richard Petty Motorsports and Front Row Motorsports are among the organizations that also field Fords in NASCAR's premier series. Ford officials say that technical information gleaned by the manufacturer is provided to all its teams. Individual organizations, however, maintain a certain level of secrecy in the interest of competition. "I think it depends on which facet of racing we’re talking about," Raj Nair, Executive Vice President for Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer, Ford Motor Co., said recently. "Certainly under the hood with Roush Yates Engines we're providing that continuity and sharing of information across all of our teams. "On the aero work that we're doing on the body, the same level of information is provided to all of the teams. Ford also provides access to a variety of chassis simulation tools, which teams may or may not choose to use. "We're trying to find a little bit of that balance of the things the teams are good at doing themselves, providing them that freedom and flexibility to do that on their own and to some extent compete against each other and see which way is better," Nair said. "But the things where you want to leverage a lot of commonality, the big tools that Ford Motor Company brings, the big investment … try to use that across all our teams." Logano said Ford officials "want us all to work together as much as we can, but we still have to race each other so there is that line there for trading out assets." "There has already been communication and some things are already underway," he said. "It will be interesting to see how that relationship grows over the next few years and how it works out. So far so good." A Ford driver has not won the championship since 2004, although Logano has qualified for the Championship 4 twice in the last three years -- 2014 and 2016. The automaker last won the manufacturer championship in 2002. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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