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Team Penske tears through Chase’s Challenger Round

NASCAR Wire Service Thursday, Oct 02 1600

It moves on towards the Contender Round even hotter.

The dynamic duo of 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano took the opening two Chase races at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, respectively, after finishing the regular season with a win apiece in the last three events. On top of that, Logano led all drivers with a 3.0 average finish in the Contender Round, while Keselowski ranked a close second with a 3.3 mark.

“I’m pretty proud to look at the sheet and know that we are the only team in the entire series that got top fives in the first three races of the Chase, and we had the best average finish,” Logano said. “I know Brad and his team had the second-best average finish, so I think that says a lot about Team Penske and how we are doing right now.”

With three Chase races in the books, Keselowski and Logano are entering uncharted territory under the playoff system’s now format. All 12 advancing drivers are on an even slate now that their points have been reset to 3,000 for the Contender Round. The Team Penske tandem gets its next shot at building on its momentum and separating from the pack again in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN).

“We are going into Kansas with the confidence of our recent successes and having a win here adds to that as well,” said Keselowski about his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford team. “It would be great to come out of this one on top.”

Keselowski won at Kansas in 2011, but has not placed in the top 10 in his last two races there. Expect him to be a favorite to take the checkered flag due to recent performance and wins this season at similar tracks. Keselowski has clinched victories at Chicagoland and Kentucky, which, like Kansas, span 1.5 miles and have similar flatter banking on the turns.

“We didn’t run as well as we would’ve liked to in the spring race earlier this year so that gives us added determination to improve our performance this weekend,” Keselowski said. “The team has been working diligently on enhancing our platform for this race, and we should be good this weekend.”

Logano struggled at Kansas when he competed for Joe Gibbs Racing, logging just one top 15 finish in eight starts. His performance at the tri-oval with Team Penske has been a different story. In three races at the Kansas with his new organization, Logano has finished fourth in his last two starts. One issue the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford driver hasn’t had at Kansas is pole position. He has started inside the top 10 six times, including second in the spring race earlier this season.

“We just need to keep doing what we are doing,” Logano said. “No reason to reinvent the wheel. The things we have been doing all year long have been working, so we just need to keep doing things the same way.”

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