Getty Images

NASCAR America: Chicagoland could provide opportunity for Team Penske

Leave a comment

The current Cup season has been a boon for Ford-backed teams, but Stewart-Haas Racing has carried most of the success.

One Ford team fighting for a larger share of the win total is Team Penske.

The team’s three drivers of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney are all in the top 11 in points, but only Logano has visited Victory Lane.

One aspect working in Penske’s favor this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway is its record.

In 17 Cup races at the 1.5-mile track, Keselowski is the only driver to go Victory Lane with a Ford. He and Penske also won there in 2012 with a Dodge.

Keselowski, who is fourth in points behind Logano, also boasts his career-best average finish at Chicagoland (9.2).

He’s finished in the top 10 in his last seven starts there.

Two of his four top fives this season have come at 1.5-mile tracks.

Meanwhile, Logano has finished worse than seventh only once in his last six Chicago visits. Blaney has finished fourth and 11th in his two Chicago starts.

NASCAR America analysts Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton discussed the team’s prospects this weekend in Chicago.

Of Keselowski, Burton said, “This is the longest he’s gone into a season without a win since 2013. He needs to win, he needs a win to establish himself as one of those guys that can go to Homestead and win. … With the success here from Brad I think you’ve got to watch him.”

Letarte said the hot and slick conditions could affect how Keselowski communicates with crew chief Paul Wolfe.

“They’re that team you can never get rid of,” Letarte said. “They’re in a race, you kind of rule them out in the first stage, next thing you know here they come again, they’ve made adjustments, they’ve improved their race car.”

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney ‘toughest man’ in Sonoma

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It was not an easy day for Ryan Blaney in Sunday’s race in Sonoma.

The Team Penske driver lost the power steering in his No. 12 Ford early in the final stage of the race. But instead of parking the car, he stuck it out through the end and placed 34th.

NASCAR America’s Dale Jarrett said Blaney was the “toughest man” on the track Sunday.

“If this happens on an oval and when that power steering goes out, the banking can help you and you can manage there,” Jarrett said. “It’s a tough afternoon to finish that, but it couldn’t have happened at a worse place, with so many turns here, you’re still having to shift, do everything that you can. … For him to be able to do this, he’s not a very big guy, I was very impressed physically that he was able to handle this throughout the day.”

Watch the above video for more.

Goodyear executive responds to Brad Keselowski’s criticism of Michigan tire package

Leave a comment

A Goodyear Tire executive responded on Thursday to critical comments Brad Keselowski made earlier this week regarding the new tire package for this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Keselowski, who was part of the April tire test that helped determine the tire setup for Cup and Xfinity teams, said on Twitter, “Our team (and several others) tested multiple tire compounds and recommended every one of them but this one. In no way do I wanna be associated with this decision.”

Involved in the April test with Keselowski were Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, and Martin Truex Jr.

Compared to what was run at Michigan last year, the new left-side tire features an updated construction that brings it into line with what is run at other speedways and a new compound to introduce more wear. The new right-side tire is a single tread compound tire (last year was a multi-zone tread tire) with a new compound that will introduce more wear and run cooler.

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” to clarify what package NASCAR will be using at the 2-mile track.

“Brad did not run this exact combination that we’re racing at Michigan,” Stucker said. “He ran the right-side compound by itself with the 2017 compound, the left-side compound. The left-side compound is meant to give a little bit more grip that perhaps we’re taking away with the right side. I hear him. He felt like he was down on grip with that particular run. But he didn’t run the combination as we’re going to have it this weekend at Michigan. I’m hoping once he gets there this weekend he’ll feel that the right side that we ran, combined with that left side, makes for a raceable package. Because all the other guys who ran the right side felt it was at least as good as the tire we raced in 2017 and perhaps even a little bit better.”

Stucker added: “Brad’s involved in a lot of our testing through the Penske organization. He provides a lot of good feedback. He really is a good tester because he’s got a good feel. He’s got good ideas and it is important for us during a tire test to get that feedback from the drivers. It’s a big piece. But that’s not the only thing we look at. We also look at the date that we generate, the data that the team’s generate and you rely on good engineering judgement as well to pull all that together to make the right decision.”

Stucker said the goal of the tire test in April was not “to go faster,” saying the track is the fastest on the circuit, with tops speeds reaching 212 mph and 175 mph in the corners.

“What we were really trying to do is create some differentiation between the top speed and let’s say the mid-corner speed,” Stucker said. “If you find the right balance between the on-throttle and off-throttle time, that’s what creates the opportunity for good racing. If everybody’s just on the throttle hard with very little off-throttle time, it kind of equates the field.

“We’ve been working with NASCAR trying to figure out, ‘What can we do at Michigan to try to create a little bit more differentiation between the on-throttle and off-throttle time?’ Then that kind of puts it in the hand of the team to try to manage that. One way we can do that is through tire wear. As tires wears they tend to lose some grip, which means you can’t run the corners as hard, so you have to manage the car a little bit more at that time. That hopefully creates different opportunities for different guys. That’s why you see guys start searching around for different grooves, move up the race track trying to find some grip … It tends to lead to good racing.”

NASCAR America: Team Penske drivers show untapped potential

1 Comment

The domination of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch has made it difficult to judge the remainder of the field, but the two winless Penske Racing drivers Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski have nevertheless shown untapped potential according to NASCAR America analyst Parker Kligerman.

There have been some great opportunities for the Team Penske drivers to interject themselves into the winner’s list. Blaney had one of the cars to beat earlier this season at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 500.

“I actually picked (Blaney) to win Bristol this year and I was looking really smart for a little bit of that race until he got in that wreck while leading,” Kligerman said. “The reason I believe that is because himself and Jeremy Bullins have a great rapport and going over to Team Penske officially in that 12 car just felt like all the stars were aligning to have more performances like we saw at Pocono, holding off Kevin Harvick in the closing laps.”

Blaney’s Bristol crash sent him to the garage in 35th. Busch won that race.

Despite failing to find victory lane yet this year, Blaney has led 418 laps – more than seven of the top 10 drivers in the points.

Blaney keeps putting the No. 12 team in position to win, but the same has not been as uniformly true of the No. 2 of Keselowski. And that has created some frustration.

Keselowski finished second to Harvick in Atlanta Motor Speedway during the second week of the season, but has earned only two more top-fives since.

“(The team members) believe what I believe, which is that Team Penske cars are some of the best right now beside Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs. If you were to say, ‘who is the best car right now who could beat Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch?’ Immediately I think Brad Keselowski and the 2 car. So why have they not been able to do it yet? That is what has perplexed them.”

For more on what Kligerman has to say about Team Penske, watch the video above.

NASCAR adds tire tests at Texas, Phoenix

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for NASCAR
Leave a comment

In an update to the rule book, NASCAR is adding tire tests Aug. 14-15 at Texas Motor Speedway and Oct. 2-3 at ISM Raceway in Arizona.

The Texas tire test is scheduled to have a team each from Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske and Furniture Row Racing. The test is to determine tires for the fall playoff race at Texas.

The Phoenix test is scheduled to have a team each from Chip Ganassi Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. That test is set to find a tire combination for the 2019 races there.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway tire test will now be Oct. 16-17. It was pushed back from Aug. 14-15.

Also in the rule bulletin:

Effective July 11 in the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR will use owner points instead of attempts to qualify in determining provisionals.

Also, when Truck qualifying is canceled, two spots (positions 26 and 27 in the lineup) will be awarded based on the fastest combined practice speeds to vehicles not yet assigned a starting spot. The top 25 spots will be determined by owner points. Filling out the final spots will remain the same as stated in the rule book.

 and on Facebook