Last season it was Stewart-Haas Racing who got the early jump on the rest of the field on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer earned multiple wins during the first half of the 2018 season. However, it was Team Penske that scored the ultimate triumph when Joey Logano won the final race of the year to secure the season-long championship.
And it looks as if Roger Penske’s organization has carried that momentum into this season.
The season opening Daytona 500 went reasonably well for Team Penske as Joey Logano finished a solid, but somewhat disappointing, fourth while teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney came home 12th and 31st respectively. But since the “Great American Race”, things have gone incredibly well for the team owned by the legendary motorsports entrepreneur. Currently, Logano, who is the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, ranks first in the series standings while Keselowski is fifth and Blaney resides in fifteenth.
After starting 19th in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Keselowski made his way to the front of the field by the end of the day and went on to claim victory. The No. 2 Ford led 33 laps on its way to victory on the worn surface of the historic 1.5-mile track.
Blaney and Logano had disappointing finishes in Atlanta as they drove to 22nd and 23rd respectively. However, both showed strength as Blaney led 41 circuits while Logano showed the way for 22 laps.
Another 1.5-mile track awaited the competitors of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last week in Las Vegas. And the results from the Pennzoil 400 were even more satisfying for the organization located in Mooresville, NC than they had been in Georgia.
Logano took the win in ‘Sin City’ with Keselowski trailing right behind him at the checkered flag to grab second. Blaney scored a disappointing 22nd in the desert.
However, Blaney has now contributed to Team Penske’s 2019 success by capturing the pole for Sunday’s Ticket Guardian 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. The No. 12 Ford, which had turned in the fastest lap during the first practice of the weekend earlier on Friday afternoon, proved to be fastest in a somewhat chaotic qualifying session that saw numerous cars wait on pit road until the very end of each round and barely get their runs underway before the NASCAR’s timing clock hit 0:00.
Obviously there are many laps yet to be run in Phoenix, but should Blaney capitalize on its early weekend strength and win Sunday’s race it would not only make three victories in a row for Team Penske but would essentially assure that organization of three secured spots in the NASCAR Playoffs.
Indeed, the 2019 season has started well for Team Penske.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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