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Can Team Penske contend for wins and championships with Ford?

By admin | February 12, 2014

This is one of several previews of Sprint Cup teams going into the 2014 season. Look for these pieces to be released every Tuesday and Thursday during the weeks leading up to the season opening Daytona 500. 

 Drivers Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano hope for better results in 2014 for Team Penske.

By Richard Allen

In 2012, Team Penske won the NASCAR Sprint Cup title with Brad Keselowski driving a Dodge. In 2013, Keselowski didn’t even make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.

So what happened?

Between the two seasons mentioned above, the Penske team made two significant changes. First, they moved from Dodge cars to Ford machines. Also, the organization with one of the most famous names in racing history stopped building its own engines and began using those prepared by longtime Ford Motor Company stalwart Roush Yates Engines.

Something seems to have gotten lost in the translation as Team Penske went from a team that won five races and the previously mentioned championship in 2012 to an organization that won two races and only managed an 8th place in the playoff in 2013. Keselowski provided all five of those victories and the championship in 2012 while Joey Logano scored a win and made the Chase in 2013. Keselowski won once but failed to make the Chase in 2013.

Was this merely a down year and a brief abberation from the norm for Team Penske? Or, was there a problem with Ford or the Roush Yates Engines?

Remember that when this team built its own Dodge engines, they were among the very best at stretching fuel mileage to eek out wins with that strategy. Perhaps other teams simply caught up with their abilities and thus deprived them of those wins. But there is also the possibility that the RYE engines did not perform in the same way as those built by Team Penske.

 It’s not as if last season was a complete disaster for Penske, but it wasn’t as good as the previous season. But whenever there is a drop off, for whatever reason, team owner Roger Penske is not the type of person who will just sit still and let things play out. He tends to be a bit more proactive than that.

In 2014, I would look for Team Penske to be stronger than they were in 2013 as there are no doubt changes being made in engineering or some other aspect of the team’s dynamic. However, I have to wonder if the switch to Ford and having to use engines other than their own did cause a problem. Should Keselowski and Logano not provide serious competition for race wins and a championship this year, it could be an indicator that there is a bigger issue.

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7 Responses to “Can Team Penske contend for wins and championships with Ford?”

  1. Offkilter Says:
    February 12th, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I was thinking Penske had geared most of their developement and platform setups on being overly agressive with the rear end skew under power after nascar had told teams to not go any further in that area. They got hammered with penalties and had to reset engineering. Bad Brad was quite vocal over all that.

  2. Tom Nasella Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Even though NASCAR handed the Nationwide driver’s championship to “the iconic 3 car”…..gaaaaackk!!…the Penske Fords ruled that division. Certainly there are differences in engine configuration between Sprint Cup and Nationwide but both use the same basic piece. I think that takes the engine out of the equation. In Sprint Cup it seems to have been handling, handling, handling.

  3. Sue Rarick Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am

    two words: Fuel mileage
    Penske won a championship during a year of fuel mileage races. Once it got back to regular racing Keselowski went back to form - mediocre.
    IMO Kez will turn out to be the number two driver, by record. He’s hitting 30 and peaking. Logano is just 23 and has a brighter future.

  4. Amazed Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I don’t think it was one factor last year. But I do think it was the engines mostly. Both drivers did very well, but were failed in the “human” aspect of poor pit stops. Some blown engines at critical times did not help. Hopefully Ford will remove some of its arrogance in the engineering department and get down to brass tacks and fix these problems. They hired somebody new to help with the pit crews, hope this pays off. And Brad, won not just because of fuel milage every race the year before.

  5. Russ Says:
    February 13th, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Its all about engineering, infrastructure and pocketbooks. Whoever brings the most to the table has the advantage.

  6. NASCARJeff Says:
    February 14th, 2014 at 7:58 am

    If Penske Racing starts to build there own cars and engines I can see them winning more races and championships. Lets face it Roush just does not have the horsepower to run up front and win races.

    I have always thought that when you lease engines from the guy your racing against your not getting the best equipment, the guy who your leasing them from does. Roger still has that Dodge engine room and I am sure that it can be converted to Ford.

  7. Sue Rarick Says:
    February 14th, 2014 at 8:25 am

    @Amazed: I didn’t say ‘Every Race”. But he did win a number of them due to fuel mileage. Enough of them to raise questions.