Although they fell short of their ultimate goal, a championship, Team Penske garnered seven wins throughout the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and put one of their drivers in the Championship Four in Joey Logano with a shot to win it all. Plus, if it weren’t for an engine failure late in the Chase, Brad Keselowski might have made his way to Miami in contention to hoist the hardware as well. And in Roger Penske’s 50th season, all he wanted was a chance, and that’s exactly what he got.
Keselowski and Logano’s seven wins didn’t come easy, but they did come at the right time for the most part. The Rochester Hills, Mich. native found victory lane four times in 2016 (Las Vegas, Talladega, Daytona and Kentucky) in his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, whereas the Middletown, Conn. native found the winner’s circle three times (Michigan, Talladega and Phoenix) in his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford.
Keselowski had the slightly inferior season statistically, though, compared to his teammate. The 32-year old recorded 22 top 10’s and 16 top fives to go along with one pole and over 500 laps led resulted in a 12th place finish in the standings. He was leading the race at Talladega when debris on his grille strained his engine to a level it could not take, and thus expired—as well as his hopes at a second career championship.
Logano earned 26 top 10’s to go along with 16 top fives in 2016. He led over 700 laps and won three poles in his eighth full season at the top NASCAR level. The biggest of his three wins came in the second-to-last race of the season at Phoenix, where his victory catapulted him into the championship four for the second time in three seasons. If it weren’t for his run in with recently *not* retired Carl Edwards on a restart with about 10 laps to go in Miami, Logano might be the champion. But alas, racing incidents happen, and the 26-year old will have to try again for his first MENCS title in 2017.
Both Keselowski and Logano will be favorites to win it all in 2017. And now with the advent of the new competition enhancements that were announced last week, it plays right into their hands. Both the No. 2 and No. 22 frequently visited the top spot at the midway point of races in past seasons, setting them up nicely for segment wins and opportunities to gain playoff points to carry throughout the playoffs.
Something else to watch will be how Team Penske interacts with Stewart-Haas Racing, who are entering their first season with Ford as their manufacturer after opting to switch from Chevrolet. Penske has been the alpha dog at the blue oval organization for the better part of half a decade. But now with the powerhouse of SHR and their four-ca operation coming over to Ford, Penske might be overtaken.
Whether it’s sharing information from years past, working as teammates on the racetrack or anything in between, one thing is for sure. Ford is back in championship form. And with at least four drivers who can realistically contend for the title, two coming from the Penske stable, 2017 is primed to be a historic season for Team Penske.