Team Penske: A Strange 2017, What Will 2018 Hold?
Team Penske is coming off of an odd 2017 season. While Brad Keselowski made the final four at Homestead, ending the season fourth in the standings, with three wins and an average finish of 12.4, teammate Joey Logano didn’t have any such luck. Logano didn’t even make the playoffs after an encumbered win at Richmond in April.
Keselowski won three races in 2017, but also failed to finish five races, all due to crashes, and failed to finish on the lead lap three additional times. While his season was good overall, he only just did enough to make the final four, winning only when he needed to. His consistency was lacking at times, and his cars didn’t have the speed of the Toyotas and many of the Chevys, like Kyle Larson. He finished quite a bit around fifth to tenth, a total of eleven races. Those finishes weren’t bad, but not good enough to beat out Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, or Kyle Busch. Keselowski heated up in the playoffs, scoring an average finish of 8.1 versus his season average of 12.4. He knew when to pick up the pace, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Toyotas. Keselowski should expect to continue his high-level performance, and once again join Kevin Harvick as the field’s leading Fords.
Joey Logano had a more puzzling season. Logano won at Richmond in April, the ninth race of the season. In those first nine races, Logano finished inside the top five six times, and earned an average finish of 7.2. In the other 27 races, Logano finished inside the top five four times, and didn’t earn another top twenty until the fifteenth race of the season at Michigan, six races after his victory. His average finish in those final 27 races was 17.8, and Logano would miss the playoffs. To say his season went from promising to disastrous is an understatement. The hope is that Logano bounces back in 2018, but after this stretch, confidence isn’t as high as it was entering 2017.
Ryan Blaney will join the team in 2018 after driving for Penske affiliate Wood Brothers Racing in 2017. Blaney scored his first career win at Pocono, and made it to the round of 8 in the playoffs. While inconsistency plagued Blaney early on, with an average finish of 20.3 through 13 races, his win at Pocono sent him to an average finish of 15.5 in the latter two thirds of the season. Expectations are high for Blaney in 2018, and the wins are expected to be many.
The problem for Penske is that they are now behind in terms of their car. It hasn’t had a significant update since 2013, when the Gen 6 cars came out. Toyota came out with their new Camry last season, and now Chevy is running their new Camaro. While Ford’s Fusion has had several minor changes in the last few years, they have fallen well behind their competitors. Word is that they will have a new car in 2019, but, until then, they will have to put in some serious extra effort to keep up with Chevy and Toyota.