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Feb 26, 2014 - 07:02 AM
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2014 Phoenix: Team Penske NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Feb 26, 2014 - 07:01 AM
NASCAR News
2014 Phoenix: Team Penske NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Preview


THE RACE

The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (one-mile speedway, Avondale, AZ)

No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion driven by Brad Keselowski | No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion driven by Joey Logano

Sunday, March 2, 3:00 pm ET

 

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THE NEWS AND NOTES

· FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Team Penske will debut another new look for the No. 2 Ford Fusion this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) as Alliance Truck Parts will make its inaugural run as a Sprint Cup Series primary sponsor in Sunday’s race.

· STRONG STATISTICAL START: Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup Champion, started his 2014 campaign by posting some impressive numbers in the season-opening Daytona 500. His average running position in last Sunday’s race was third, he enters Phoenix with the second-highest driver rating (117.1) and he led all drivers in green flag speed and quality passes at Daytona.

· BREAK THE DESERT DROUGHT: With nine Sprint Cup Series starts at PIR, Keselowski has yet to visit Victory Lane. Over his last five starts at the venue, he has led 60 laps with 27 of those coming in last November’s PIR race. He’ll be looking for his first Cup Series Phoenix win on Sunday.

· SETTLING INTO A GROOVE: Now that the confetti has settled on the spectacle that is the Daytona 500, the racing season begins to settle into a groove at Phoenix. The No. 2 Team Penske Ford produced an impressive pace during Speed Weeks at Daytona and ran a spirited 500 with a third-place finish that left Keselowski less than satisfied. He looks to build on his solid production with another strong result this weekend.

· FINE OVER THE LAST FOUR: In his last four starts at PIR, the desert motorsport mecca, Keselowski has amassed three top-six finishes. His best result was a fourth-place finish in last year’s spring Phoenix race.

· PVA PRESS CONFERENCE: On Saturday morning, Keselowski will participate in a Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) press conference beginning at 8:15 am MT. The event, which will be held in Victory Lane at PIR, will serve as the official launch of the “Wheels Helping Warriors” program as Keselowski and PVA officials will unveil details of the initiative.

· WANTING MORE AFTER DAYTONA: While an 11th-place finish in the Daytona 500 is better than how 32 other drivers fared, Joey Logano isn’t content heading into Phoenix. The 23-year-old driver felt he had a better car than the finish showed and just got stuck in the wrong lane several times late in the race at Daytona, which kept him from contending for the victory. Logano had to back off several times over the last couple laps to avoid accidents around him, which forced him to fall. He did race his way up to the front from his 35th-place starting position and led two laps in the “Great American Race.”

· DRIVER RATING TELLS THE STORY: Logano ran well in Daytona in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford. In fact, he recorded the fourth-best driver rating of all those in the field with a 104.1, proving he ran up front and was in contention most of the night. NASCAR’s driver rating formula is calculated by combining wins, finishes, top-15 results, average running position while on lead lap, average speed under the green flag, fastest lap, laps led and lead-lap finishes.

· SOME PHOENIX SUCCESS: Logano has had mixed results at Phoenix in his career. In 10 Sprint Cup Series races at the track, he’s earned one top-five and four top-10 finishes. Last year, he finished 26th in the spring race despite running in the top five with a handful of laps to go when the car developed fuel pickup problems. He finished ninth in the 2013 fall race at PIR. Logano has also won at the track in the Nationwide Series.

· COMMERCIAL STAR: While in Phoenix, Logano will film a commercial for Team Penske Nationwide Series sponsor Discount Tire – which is based in the area – with his Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney.

· FRIENDS OF 9-1-1: Shell Pipeline will be featuring a “Friends of 9-1-1” decal on the deck lid of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford at this weekend’s race at Phoenix in partnership with NENA -The National Emergency Number Association. “Friends of 9-1-1” supports our 9-1-1 professionals and elevates 9-1-1 education and training.

THE Q&A

BRAD KESELOWSKI, NO. 2 ALLIANCE TRUCK PARTS FORD
YOU WERE FAST THROUGHOUT SPEEDWEEKS AT DAYTONA. DO YOU EXPECT TO CONTINUE THAT TREND AT PHOENIX?

“Team Penske has traditionally had a great short-track program. We had a strong Ford Fusion at Phoenix last November and since then we have made improvements. Having said that, my Daytona 500 race car was one of the best cars I have ever had there and, as I said after the race, you don’t get cars like that all the time. It will be great to have Alliance Truck Parts with us this weekend and I’m confident that our Ford Fusion will be competitive and our team will be as well.”

PAUL WOLFE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 2 ALLIANCE TRUCK PARTS FORD

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO SHIFT GEARS FROM DAYTONA TO PHOENIX?

“It’s not too difficult. Daytona is its own distinct entity and making it through as well as we did is nice. Besides being our biggest race, it is also the first race back for the teams, which gave us a clear idea of where the team is operationally. Being in Daytona for almost two weeks gives us a chance to get our processes up and running. Phoenix ought to be good for us as we have already identified some areas where we can improve from an operations standpoint and that will serve to accentuate our competitive edge.”

JOEY LOGANO, NO. 22 SHELL-PENNZOIL FORD

IS THERE A BIG MENTAL CHANGE WHEN YOU MOVE FROM A PLACE LIKE DAYTONA TO PHOENIX ON BACK-TO-BACK WEEKENDS?

“Yeah, it’s a totally different style of racing. At Daytona, you are mentally worn out after the race because you are aware and on edge the whole time. When you get to Phoenix, you can get more into a zone. It’s more racing where handling and car prep really comes into play. And you just approach it different from the very beginning. Daytona is Daytona. But you really feel like you start the season when you get to Phoenix.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SEEING DALE JR. WIN THE DAYTONA 500?

“Of course we wanted to win the race. That is why we go to the track. And if we weren’t going to win, I would have liked to have seen Brad win the race because he’s my teammate and I knew he had a good car. But everyone loves seeing Dale Jr. win the race. It will be good for our sport. It will bring a lot of attention our way in the coming weeks. That’s probably our biggest star winning the biggest race. That’s got to be good, right? Hopefully, we as a sport can take the extra attention and make it pay off with some big races in the next couple of weeks. And hopefully we can win both of those.”

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