When Team Penske announced this past winter that they were swapping all three driver and crew chief combinations in the NASCAR Cup Series for 2020, I’ll admit, I was skeptical on the reasoning.
All three combos seemed to be working already. Two of the three pairings had won championships together in NASCAR’s top series.
The Todd Gordon/Joey Logano combo won the 2018 championship together to go along with 21 wins, 99 top five finishes, 160 top 10’s and 5,649 laps led including five victories, 25 top 10’s and 47 top 10 results over just the last two seasons.
Paul Wolfe/Brad Keselelowski won the 2012 championship together and have won 29 races, produced 110 top five finishes, 175 top 10 results and led 7,297 laps since 2011.
Jeremy Bullins/Ryan Blaney haven’t won a title yet but have three wins, 27 top five finishes and 59 top 10’s. They too led 1,414 laps together as well. Blaney/Bullins and Wolfe/Keselowski had been together their entire Cup careers. Gordon/Logano had been together every season since Logano joined Team Penske in 2013.
The trio finished 5-7-8 in the final standings last year for crying out loud. No one could hold a candle to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019 anyways, so Team Penske was arguably the next best overall organization.
Now, Penske was going into Speedweeks, with only one month to spare with a big change up. The only thing that remained the same was the spotters for the drivers and the car numbers. Everything else from the pit crew, to the crew chief to everything was different.
After the first four races to 2020 though, I’ll admit I was wrong to be skeptical. Penske is the best in the business for a reason. The change was likely sparked because everyone was getting complacent and they were just good enough — but not at their best.
Logano, ended 2019 on a 21 race winless drought. Blaney, won just once and that came in the playoffs which ended a winless streak of over a year. Keselowski, is still riding a 28 race winless streak.
So, the changes were to put a fire back in everyone. That and two of the three heading into the season without contracts in place for 2021, well it’s paying off in big ways.
Now that the Daytona 500/west coast swing is over, it worked. I can make a case that Penske could have won all four races this year. The Logano/Wolfe pairing has resulted in two wins, Blaney/Gordon have seen him arguably have the fastest car and the Keselowski/Bullins relationship has been solid.
Logano, won his Duel in Daytona and was in the hunt to win the rain delayed Daytona 500 before being involved in a couple of crashes towards the end. Blaney, came home runner-up to race winner Denny Hamlin while Keselowski was caught up in a crash while running up front and finished 36th.
In Vegas, Blaney had the race won or at the very least a runner-up but a late race caution fell and he hit pit lane. Logano, instead capitalized and won. Basically his second win in three starts on the year with Wolfe. In Fontana, Blaney had a second place car before his tire corded with three laps-to-go while running P2. Keselowski, coming off of a seventh place run in Vegas, finished fifth. Then, last weekend in Phoenix, Keselowski rebounded from an early crash to win the second stage of the FanShield 500 and lead 82 laps before fading to 11th. Logano, would overcome two pit separate pit road problems, one for a uncontrolled tire and the other for a broken jack, to win for the second time in three weeks.
Now, they head back east to Atlanta with the most speed in the series right now.
Three of the top seven in lap leaders belong to Penske. Logano (120) is third, Keselowski (118) is fourth and Blaney (77) is seventh.
Blaney was P2 in Daytona, should have been P2 in both Vegas and Fontana.
Logano, won Vegas and Phoenix.
Keselowski, has two top seven finishes in his last three starts.
This is the group to watch as the season moves on.