What kind of difference can a year make?
Twelve months ago, Team Penske’s flagship Xfinity team was having a typical season. The No. 22 team, with the combined efforts of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, entered the November race at Texas Motor Speedway with six wins.
That race weekend ended with Keselowski taking the team to victory lane for the seventh and final time in the 33-race season.
Now, 12 months later, the No. 22 organization is three races from the end of its worst season since it began competing full-time in 2010.
Entering Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway, the combined efforts of Keselowski, Logano, Blaney and Alex Tagliani have yielded no wins through 30 races this season.
The team that won 24 times in the previous three seasons, including 12 times in 2013, has been almost a non-factor this season.
While Joe Gibbs Racing has racked up 17 wins with three cars to this point, tying its own 2008 record, Penske’s only Xfinity wins have come with Logano in its No. 12 car, which has only made four starts.
Penske tried to remedy the situation in August by replacing crew chief Brian Wilson with Greg Erwin. But Erwin, who led the No. 22 to all of its 2015 victories, hasn’t been able to right the ship yet. In the eight races since the swap, the No. 22 has finished in the top 10 in all of them and earned four top fives.
Meanwhile, Wilson directed the No. 12 team’s winning effort at Charlotte.
Keselowski will be in the No. 22 this weekend, making his 14th start of the season. Through his first 13 starts, Keselowski has led only 104 laps and has an average finish of 8.8.
If the 2012 Sprint Cup champion finally takes the No. 22 to victory lane, he will have won in nine straight Xfinity seasons. That would tie Mark Martin‘s mark that he set from 1992 – 2000.
If he doesn’t win, it will leave the No. 22 operation with two races to avoid its first winless season in seven seasons.