Penske Racing’s three-car operation with drivers Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano all advanced into the playoff round of the schedule with the opportunity to run for the season title in 2019.
When the field was trimmed to four drivers after the final elimination race at Phoenix, none of the Penske drivers had advanced as one of the Championship 4 that would run for the championship the following week at Homestead.
Penske’s strong stable of drivers and talented crew chiefs started the season as one of the organizations to beat for the title as it took five of the first fifteen checkered flags.
It was the kind of start that any organization would want but after a hot start to the season, it only was able to make one trip to victory lane over the remaining 21 races of the season.
Penske like the rest of the series had to sit and watch as Joe Gibbs Racing dominated the sport not only in the regular season but the 10-race playoff portion of the schedule that eventually crowned the series champion. The Championship 4 that competed for the title was made up of three JGR drivers. Kyle Busch who went on to win the title was joined by teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. in the four driver field
Once the season was over, Penske like every other organization that competes in the series began to look for ways to strengthen its individual race teams which in turn strengthens the competitive performance of the entire operation.
Penske decided that maybe the best way to increase its performance was by changing the pairings of its drivers and crew chiefs.
So many times once the season is over, owners look outside of their organization for a new crew chief but in Penske’s situation he had three of the more talented ones already inside of his building.
Peter Wolfe had been Keselowski’s crew chief for nine seasons and together was considered one of the more successful combinations in the sport. The two had posted 29 wins together and won the series title in 2012.
Keselowski and Wolfe are not the only championship crew chief/driver combinations at Penske as Joey Logano and his crew chief Todd Gordon won the title in 2018.
Those two had been paired together for the last seven years and had made 21 trips to victory lane together. Jeremy Bullins had been crew chief for Blaney at the Wood Brothers before the pair moved to Penske.
Next month when the season gets underway at Daytona those pairings will just be a distant memory as Wolfe will be taking over the crew chief duties for Logano’s No. 22 team. Taking over the crew chiefs duties for Keselowski’s No. 2 car will be Bullins while Blaney’s No. 12 team will be led by Gordon.
Crew chiefs are not the only team members that will now be wearing a new uniform this season at Penske. The road crews and pit crews will also be making the move with the crew chief that they worked with during the 2019 season.
PIT NOTES: The competition at the short tracks of Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond in the past has always produced some of the best racing on the entire schedule and this season it may be getting even better. NASCAR is expected to make some tweaks to its short-track rules package which could include changes to both the spoiler and splitter areas. Last season’s introduction of the high-downforce aero package hurt the racing on the short tracks and this could be the move that increases the number of passes that are being made which in returns makes for a more enjoyable race for the fans.