When Brad Keselowski won last week’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, it marked the 100th NASCAR Cup win for Team Penske. After the race, team owner Roger Penske talked about the race and what the victory meant. He also defended how his two drivers – Keselowski and Joey Logano – comport themselves on and off the track.
Q. What did winning the 100th race for the team mean?
A. To win 100 races with the competition that we have in this sport is amazing, and it comes down to the people. It’s the hundreds of people that work for us every single day that make a difference, and there’s no question that Ford has stepped up.
The 100th in NASCAR is something special. We lose more than we win in this business, and you’ve got to know how to deal with the downs and take advantage of the ups. I guess 100 wins puts us in a good position. But you look at (Joe) Gibbs and (Richard) Childress and (Rick) Hendrick and some of the other teams, these guys have won a lot of races.
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I think we’ve competed in multiple series, and I think we’re almost at 450 wins now, and we’re I think three or four away from 500 poles. Our goal is 500 and 500. This was the first step to get to 100 in NASCAR.
It couldn’t come at a better time. Sixteen years ago we won our first 100th race in IndyCar, so it took a long time to get here on the NASCAR side. But a pretty important night for us.
Q. No driver has won more plate races since 2009 than Brad. In your estimation is he the best right now on these kind of tracks?
A. There are a lot of great racers on plates. You never say you’re the best. But I think that he’s consistent, and we’ve made our cars better. He certainly is a big factor in that as he comes into the shop and talks to the aero guys. There’s a little bit of luck out there to stay out of trouble. But when you can sit up front -- I think in the old days you’d sit back, “I’m going to take it easy and then go at the end.” You’ve got to race up front all night, and if you don’t you’re going to get in trouble.
Q. What was different in his car from past races at Daytona?
A. We knew he had some power because Brad had won a race (at) Talladega and we had some extra power and we saw it. We got the reliability because once you’ve been in the Chase you have a chance to -- I wouldn’t say gamble -- but try things you might not if you were trying to get your berth in the Chase.
We’ve been able to develop on the dynamometer, but you just need that opportunity to be able to run at the track. Things went our way. (Daytona) is a handling track. We’ve been able to get the speed and we’ve worked hard with our aerodynamics to get a car that will also work in the corners. We owe a big shout-out to our aerodynamic guys because that car along with the engine piece, and of course Brad did a super job driving it.
Q. Joey Logano has been a lightning rod recently and was again Saturday when he appeared to make contact with Kurt Busch at the end. Do you worry that other drivers often seem to be upset with him?
A. I have to look at each situation accordingly. Joey has taken, I think, some undue criticism based on some of the things that have happened. Certainly you can go back, and I could name three or four things that certainly weren’t his fault.
But I think he’s one of the best drivers on the racetrack out there day in and day out, and sure, people make mistakes. A lot of these drivers can knock somebody off the track, and they say, hey, I’m sorry, you follow me, and they move on. They don’t let Logano do that. I’m behind him 300 percent. It could have been a big mess down there tonight, too, and at the end of the day, that’s racing as far as I’m concerned.
Q. Brad can be outspoken. Does that detract from how talented and intelligent he is?
A. He’s a calculating guy, and you’re not with him every day like we are in the shop and see what he brings to the race team. He came early on, he said, look, I’m going to help you get a championship team. We did that. He helped to attract (crew chief) Paul Wolfe to the team.
Look, this is not a popularity contest, and anybody who thinks it is shouldn’t be sitting here tonight. This is racing, and unfortunately some people have different ideas. I wouldn’t trade these two drivers for anyone. They’re young, they’re aggressive, they win races. They work well with the sponsors, and they’re high-integrity guys, so move on from there.