Team Penske frustrated with near-win in Phoenix
MAR 03, 2014 5:15p ET
The best part of NASCAR's new win-and-you're-in Sprint Cup points system is that drivers no longer get out of their cars after a top-five or even a top-10 finish and blather on about having a good points day.
The worst part?
Well, if you're a driver who finished in the top five and didn't win, you'll get out of your car and bemoan the fact that you didn't get a victory that would've virtually guaranteed you a slot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Consider the plight of Penske Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. By all accounts, they had a very successful weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. There, they qualified 1-2, respectively, for The Profit on CNBC 500 and finished third and fourth behind winner Kevin Harvick and runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr.
For Keselowski, it was his second consecutive third-place finish and it left him second to Earnhardt in points, with Logano sixth.
“We know under this system wins are the only things that count.”
Yet neither Penske racer was especially happy with the outcome.
"We know under this system wins are the only things that count," said Keselowski. "Last year you would have said second and thirds were great but this year they are just so-so. We were close. I could see it the whole race and I think some of the long run stuff we were just as good as anybody but then the short run stuff we were just kind of okay. It was a good run either way and something to be proud of and hang our hat on. We just know we have to be a little better and move from here."
Logano likewise went all out at the end of the race, trying hard to pressure Harvick into making a mistake.
"On that last restart, the last two restarts, I figured I might as well go for it," Logano said. "With a win being so important you might as well go for it and I tried to stuff it in there three-wide and gave up a spot by doing that but overall it is all about the win. We didn't quite get that today but we will go to Vegas and try again."
For this year, NASCAR has altered its playoff system. The Chase for the Sprint Cup field has been expanded to 16 drivers. Those spots will go to drivers who have won races during the 25-race NASCAR regular season, along with a slot for the regular season points leader regardless of whether he's won a race or not. In all likelihood, winning even one regular season race is a guaranteed ticket to the Chase, and the drivers know it.
After the Phoenix race, Keselowski was asked if the new points system was affecting the racing so far.
"It is a small sample size," Keselowski said. "I would say probably a little, yeah. It would be unfair to say not at all. When I got out of the car, my teammate and I, Joey Logano, talked about some moves he tried to pull on the restarts, thought he might have or might have done something different under different scenarios. I could say to that effect he would say yes."