The track is smaller and the speeds are slower than the last two race weekends, but one thing hasn’t changed for the Cup Series with its visit to ISM Raceway in Phoenix – Team Penske is fast.
On top of that, the team earned its first pole of the year with Ryan Blaney.
“Maybe we haven’t reached our peak,” Logano said Friday. “You can’t be peaking too soon if you didn’t get to your own peak. That’s my opinion. No, it’s so early in the season things are going to be changing week after week of who the dominant car is. What I will say is, yeah, we came out of the gates pretty strong and I’m super-proud of that, but I wouldn’t say we’re peaking too soon. No way. I wouldn’t want to think that way if we were.”
If anyone doesn’t want Penske to have peaked already, it’s Blaney, who finished 22nd in the last two races.
On top of his pole, Blaney was the most consistent of the Penske drivers over the last two days, appearing in the top three in every practice, including leading Friday’s session.
All of this is good news for Blaney, who is ready “to be part of the win club” that’s formed with Keselowski and Logano with their back-to-back wins.
But Blaney lagging behind his teammates goes back to last year.
While Penske has won eight of the last 15 Cup races dating back to the Southern 500 last September, Blaney accounts for just one of those. That came on the Charlotte Roval and was made possible by the last-lap contact between Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.
Now Blaney will try to give Penske three straight wins for the second time in 16 races. But he’ll have to do it on a track he’s never finished better than eighth at in six starts.
“We just have to clean some stuff up, it’s been unfortunate,” Blaney said Friday of his results at Atlanta and Las Vegas. “While it’s nice to have Penske winning and obviously I’m selfish and I want to win, but it’s good to have our cars really fast and our finishes definitely don’t reflect how we’ve been running. We’ve been really fast this year at all three places so far.”
A shredded tire at Atlanta and a tire going down at Las Vegas resulted in him finishing 22nd in both races.
“We didn’t even really get to race at Vegas,” Blaney said. “Just trying to clean up some stuff and maybe get a little bit of luck on our side. The best thing we can do is control the things we can control and if we keep bring fast cars to the race track hopefully it will work out for you one of these times.”
Should he luck out and win today, he’d join a small Phoenix club.
Only once in the last 16 races has the pole-sitter went on to win.