The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season had just about everything for Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano: Victories, controversy and more victories.
One thing was lacking: A championship.
“We had some great wins, some tough racing, both cars right down to the end there as far as the Chase,” Penske founder and chairman Roger Penske said Wednesday at the NASCAR media tour at the Charlotte Convention Center. “Obviously we didn’t get what we wanted.”
Keselowski (six) and Logano (five) combined for 11 victories and both qualified for the Chase. Logano was among the four drivers in contention for the title at the season’s last race in Homestead, Fla., finishing 16th as Kevin Harvick won the championship.
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“We’ve got a lot of energy now because we’re coming off a great year,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 Ford. “We’ve got a lot of momentum. It was the best year of my career with (five) victories and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again this year.”
Last season was Logano’s second Chase. He hopes the experience he has gleaned from those runs at the title will put him over the hump this season.
“I don’t know if we’ll do anything differently from last year,” said Logano. “We proved that we belonged, racing for the championship last year. That doesn’t change the amount of pressure we put on each other to win the championship. We’re looking at the positives that came from that whole experience.”
Some of what Logano’s team will need to take from 2014 is more attention to detail on pit road, where errors by his crew at Homestead played a part in the finish.
“Was it in the most important race of the season? Yes,” said Logano. “Did it cost us the championship? I don’t know. Maybe there were things that cost us in that race. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
Keselowski said the relationship he has forged with Logano has made the Penske team stronger. Although Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, won a series-high six times last year, it wasn’t enough to put him in the final four at Homestead.
Keselowski also said he thinks the Chase format first used in 2014 – one that stresses victories – has made for a different kind of racing.
“What last year taught me is there’s a new era coming in this sport with this Chase,” he said. “It’s already arrived. You have to be very aggressive to win championships under this format. There’s no playing defense any more.”
Keselowski’s 2014 also was marked by reminders of his hard-charging style. At the Texas race Nov. 2, Keselowski wrecked Jeff Gordon late, Keselowski said, for the win. That prompted a postrace fight between Keselowski and Gordon.
“You know you’re doing something right in this sport when you’re racing the racing establishment (Gordon) and you make them upset,” said Keselowski. “You’re racing and getting in a fight for the win, not for 20th (place). When that (happens), you’re probably doing the right thing.”
Keselowski was told Gordon recently had said he would not be a person Gordon would invite to his house for dinner.
“I didn’t know we were doing this for dinner invitations,” said Keselowski. “I’ll have to ask Roger about that.”