After years of just being OK at restrictor-plate tracks, Team Penske has vaulted to the top of the pack, winning six of the last nine races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
Last year, Penske driver Brad Keselowski won at both plate tracks, Talladega in the spring and Daytona in July, while his teammate, Joey Logano, won the fall Talladega race.
Logano also was victorious in the 2015 Daytona 500, just the second time Team Penske won that race.
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And just last Sunday, Logano won the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona, where Keselowski was also in contention to win until he got hit by Denny Hamlin on the final lap.
Logano and Keselowski head into Sunday’s 59th running of the Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX) as two of the favorites to win the richest and most prestigious race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Wednesday at Daytona, I asked Keselowski how it came to pass that Team Penske went from being just OK at plate tracks to the dominant force there.
This is what he said: “I think we got really tired of people saying that restrictor plate tracks were about luck.”
That decision, according to Keselowski, was a game-changer for Team Penske.
“The culture really changed for us when as a company, we decided this isn’t luck anymore,” he said. “This is a concerted effort to put on your best moves, your best face, your best cars and quit saying it’s luck. As soon as we stopped saying that at Team Penske we had a lot more success. I think it’s a lot more about culture than anything else.”
Keselowski said having fast cars helps, too.
“It’s about more than me,” he said. “You have to have the right car to do it and the cars right now are really lending themselves to drivers being able to make moves and establish position to dominate a race and I think we’ve capitalized well on that with Team Penske.”
Sunday, we’ll see if one of the Penske Fords can win the Great American Race again. It should be quite a battle.