Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Team Penske Gears Up for Second Round of the Chase

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

After being shut out in the win department in the first round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Team Penske’s two drivers, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, will be looking to make a splash as the second round of the playoffs kick off at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Logano will be looking for back-to-back Bank of America 500 wins after winning last season’s rain-delayed race, while Keselowski will be looking for his first Charlotte win since the fall race in 2013.

Beginning with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte back in May, Logano has been on a roll, scoring one win and top-10 finishes in 13 of the last 15 races, so despite a victory lane drought that has been going since the first Michigan race in June, the No. 22 team has momentum coming into Charlotte. Last season, Charlotte kicked off a blazing run through the second round of the Chase as Logano swept all three races in the round at Charlotte, Kansas, and Talladega, so history could be on Logano’s side Saturday night.

In 15 Charlotte starts, Logano has his 2015 Bank of America 500 win, five top-five finishes, nine top-10 finishes, 248 laps led, and an average finish of 9.5.

“The second round, this is game time now.  I think my team is in great shape.  I think both the 2 and the 22, our cars have speed and I think our teams have never been better, which is probably more important than having fast cars is having a great race team.  I feel like our teams have executed really well through the first round.  Brad with three top-5s and ourselves with three great runs as well to get us through, including a second-place finish.  It shows that we can handle the pressure.  It shows that we’re better under pressure and we’re ready to get through this next round.  This was a great round for us last year, sweeping it, so we’re hoping to have that same result when it comes to tomorrow night and trying to get another win and get the ball rolling again,” said Logano.

Meanwhile, his teammate Keselowski will look to continue his regular season success, where he won four races, scored 13 top-five finishes, 17 top-10 finishes, one pole, 442 laps led, and an average finish of 9.7. That success has followed him through the first round of the Chase with three top-five finishes in the first three races of the Chase.

Out of the three tracks in the second round of the Chase, Keselowski has won at both Charlotte and Talladega, so this could be the round that he is able to win one of the three races to be able to move on to the Round of 8. In 14 starts at Charlotte, Keselowski has his 2013 win, three top-five finishes, six top-10 finishes, one pole, 217 laps led, and an average finish of 13.9.

“Looking at all the rounds of the Chase I think the word opportunity comes to mind.  We have a tremendous opportunity with, I think, two high-running teams with the 22 and the 2 teams, that have run up front, won races this year, showed a lot of consistency, all the things that it’s gonna take to make our way to Homestead and run for another championship.  I can tell you that I feel like we’re in a really strong spot.  The last three weeks have been phenomenal, not quite the win, but someone once told me early in my career that if you win one out of every 10 races in your Cup career, you’re having a really great career,” said Keselowski.

“I think about that winning percentage.  Ten percent is a great winning percentage, so, realistically, your chances of winning a race in every round is very, very low.  If you could pull that off, you would be a top-of-the-line Hall of Famer, so you’re gonna need to win races when you can, certainly, but when you can’t win races, you’re gonna need to put up great finishes and solid finishes, so being able to do that in the first round feels good and gives you a lot of confidence for the next two rounds.  That’s how I feel.  I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity to win in this round and also to keep the strong, consistent performance up.”

Logano will start Sunday’s race in 10th, while Keselowski has his work cut out for him as he only managed a 20th place run in qualifying.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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