2017 NASCAR Team Recap: Team Penske

Nigel KinradeNKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

For the final five days of 2017, Kickin’ the Tires will recap each of the top 10 teams in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, laying out their year in statistics and storylines. 

The Breakdown

Wins: Three

Playoff Berths: One

Highest Points Finisher: Fourth

Driver Results:

  • Brad Keselowski (Fourth in Points – Three wins, 15 top fives, 21 top 10s, 778 laps led, Five DNFs)
  • Joey Logano (17th in Points – One win, 10 top fives, 17 top 10s, 376 laps led, Four DNFs)

The 2017 season was a one-sided affair for Team Penske, as 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski made his first Championship 4 appearance while Joey Logano failed to make the playoffs at all.

Keselowski took little time to earn his postseason bid. After crashing out in the season-opening Daytona 500, the 33-year-old bounced back the following week to earn his first victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He then proceeded to earn three-consecutive top fives in the ensuing trio of races, including a runner-up result at Auto Club Speedway, and follow the streak up by all-but guaranteeing his playoff berth with a second win at Martinsville Speedway.

However while his early stretch was impressive, Martinsville on Keselowski faded into the midst of the Cup Series field. He notched nine more top 10s through the rest of the regular season, but failed to get back to victory lane.

The Team Penske veteran came close on three separate occasions, finishing second at Richmond Raceway and Kansas Speedway, and losing out on an opportunity to bring Roger Penske his first Brickyard 400 win after losing the lead to Kasey Kahne on the final restart. But he ultimately backed into the playoffs after a quiet, if consistent, summer.

With Keselowski flying under the radar, the focus went to Logano.

After coming heartbreakingly close to his first Cup Series title in 2016 – crashing with Carl Edwards and then falling just short of rebounding to pass Jimmie Johnson – Logano entered 2017 as one of the favorites to hoist up the championship trophy in Monster Energy’s first season as presenting sponsor.

To his credit, Logano looked the part early on. The Connecticut native was a strong contender in the opening weeks of the season, finishing sixth or better in seven of the first eight races. When he finally made his way to victory lane in the ninth race at Richmond, it appeared his path to the playoffs was complete.

But then came the penalty report.

Logano’s victory was deemed encumbered after his No. 22 failed inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center with a rear suspension violation. The 27-year-old’s win was stripped of playoff eligibility, and he was assessed a 25-point fine while losing crew chief Todd Gordon for two races.

It seemed inconsequential at the time, but that penalty would come to be the turning point in Logano’s season.

He tallied four-straight finishes outside of the top 20 after the penalty, falling within range of the playoff bubble. Struggles with inconsistency over the summer months kept Logano vulnerable, and when a host of surprise winners including Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne all claimed playoff berths, Logano was suddenly left on the outside looking in with the postseason approaching.

A final stretch of poor results – four finishes of 24th or worse in the final six regular season races – forced Logano to aim for a victory if he wanted to make the postseason. And while he came close in the regular season finale at Richmond, he ultimately fell just shy of a playoff berth after finishing second to Kyle Larson.

With Logano eliminated, only Keselowski could carry the team through the playoffs. But while their odds weren’t great, the No. 2 team put together a valiant playoff campaign.

Keselowski breezed through the Round of 16 with three-straight top 10s. He survived an attrition-filled afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway to claim a playoff-advancing victory in the Round of 12.

The Round of 8 proved challenging, with Keselowski being moved out of the way late by Chase Elliott in his pursuit of a Martinsville victory. But in the end Keseslowski would benefit from Elliott’s antics, passing both the Georgian and Denny Hamlin as both drivers got the bad end of a playoff feud.

Keselowski also beat out Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Blaney to clinch a berth in the Championship 4 with a 16th-place run at Phoenix Raceway.

Based on the quiet summer and fall that preceded his title race berth, Keselowski was easily the biggest underdog of the quartet. Try as he might, the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway played out that way, too.

Crew chief Paul Wolfe played strategy to lift Keselowski to the championship lead early, but in the end the Michigander’s No. 2 Ford just didn’t have the pace to keep up with the rest of his competitors. He took the checkered flag in seventh – fourth and last among the Championship 4.

Logano finished one position ahead of his teammate in sixth to claim 17th in the standings – the first spot outside of the playoffs.

The 2017 season was far from a banner year for either member of Team Penske’s driver duo. Keselowski took steps back from 2016 in wins (three), top fives (15), top 10s (21) and average finish (12.4), though he did lead more laps (778) and finished higher in the standings (fourth) than the previous year.

After making two Championship 4 appearances in the previous three years, Logano’s 2017 was a significant letdown. His 10 top fives, 17 top 10s and 15.2 average finish were all personal lows from his five-year tenure with Penske.

Penske will look to pick their performance back up in 2018. The organization will go back to three teams, bringing on Pocono Raceway winner Ryan Blaney to pilot the No. 12 Ford for the full Cup Series tour.

All three drivers will head into 2018 with one or more Round of 8 appearances to their name. So if Team Penske and Ford can find pace, don’t be surprised if the organization is in contention for a title come November.

Team Recaps: 

Germain Racing (Dec. 27)

Roush Fenway Racing (Dec. 27)

Richard Childress Racing (Dec. 28)

Wood Brothers Racing (Dec. 28)

Chip Ganassi Racing (Dec. 29)

Hendrick Motorsports (Dec. 29)

Team Penske (Dec. 30)

Stewart-Haas Racing (Dec. 30)

Joe Gibbs Racing (Dec. 31)

Furniture Row Racing (Dec. 31)

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