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.
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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