Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Penske Off To Strong Start
It may be early in the 2018 campaign, however, what Team Penske, along with the aligned Wood Brothers Racing, has done has been impressive to start the season.
You see the transition to becoming a four-car team can be a difficult one.
While it may seem like a great idea to field an additional car for a talented driver, the risk has tended to outweigh the rewards. In some scenarios, one team will not perform to same standards as it’s teammates. In others, the entire organization takes a competitive step back from the success it once had.
Championship winning teams such as Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas, and Hendrick Motorsports, have all faced issues with fielding four full-time efforts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Three races into the new campaign, the four cars prepared in Team Penske shop haven’t skipped a beat. Given the significant changes they went through during the offseason, which included bringing Paul Menard to drive the No. 21 and creating an entirely new team for Ryan Blaney, it says a lot about them to be doing well.
The success has surprised some as they weren’t a dominant team in 2017 (winning only five races) and had a driver miss the playoffs (Joey Logano); many wondered if they would continue to fall behind their competition. Even Penske’s own, Brad Keselowski expressed concerns with Ford’s ability to compete with the other manufacturers. The 2012 champion went as far to say they could be in for a “drubbing.”
So, where do they stand after three races?
Two of the four drivers are in the top-five in the points standings (Logano, second, Blaney, third) and, Keselowski and Menard, are not far behind currently ranked seventh and ninth. Notably, they are the only team/alliance to have all drivers affiliated with them in the top-10 and while they haven’t won any races, yet, each week they have made their presence know.
Keselowski started off the year with a win in The Clash and has been the only driver not named Kevin Harvick to capture a stage in the last two weeks. Blaney, like his former owner, scored a victory early in the Can-Am Duels, and earning playoff points during the Daytona 500.
Meanwhile, Logano doesn’t own any wins or playoff points, but he may the most consistent of all, as he is the only driver throughout all of NASCAR’s top-tier series to score three-straight top-10 finishes in the opening three races.
Then there’s Menard, who many had written off after lackluster years at RCR, who has quickly adjusted to his new role at Wood Brothers Racing, with two top-10s (one less than he had all season) and has seemed to pick up right where Blaney left off.
The team’s early success should be taken note of because if they are doing this good now, they may get better as the organization continues to adjust to the changes. You look at how expansion turned the Joe Gibbs/Furniture Row Racing alliance to a dominant force in 2017; it’s not far-fetched to think Team Penske can do the same.
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