A Penske Perfect weekend at Michigan and Mid-Ohio

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Roger Penske has to be feeling mighty proud of his NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series squads after a tremendous weekend that saw them both head to Victory Lane in their respective events.

On Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, A.J. Allmendinger dominated and then survived a green-white-checkered finish to earn his second NNS victory of the season. Then today, Joey Logano came through with a Cup win at Michigan International Speedway that put him right in the thick of Chase contention.

Penske called Logano’s victory one of the biggest he’s ever had at the two-mile oval, which he himself owned from 1972 to 1999 before his tracks were purchased by the International Speedway Corporation.

“We bet on Joey when we hired him, and he’s certainly been showing the speed and the skill, and today, winning at our home track for Ford and our Shell-Pennzoil car was outstanding,” he said. “It was a great Penske weekend when you think about A.J. [Allmendinger] down at Mid-Ohio, but for me, [Michigan] is a great track.

“I came here many years ago and we bought the track, and it’s still the best track on the circuit – you can pass and you can race. So, to get this victory is just amazing.”

The win also marked Logano’s first win for Penske since joining the team over this past off-season as the full-time driver of the No. 22 Ford. When asked about how he came to hire Logano, “The Captain” cited not only his inner drive but his ability to work well with the reigning Sprint Cup champion, Brad Keselowski.

“That is key. You have to have that chemistry,” he said. “We are investing in the future and we have two young drivers we would match with anybody today. We are looking long-term. This isn’t about one race at Michigan, it is about the future.”

As for the present, both Keselowski and Logano are looking for a Chase berth, with the latter’s chances boosted considerably by his win over Kevin Harvick this afternoon in the Irish Hills.

Naturally, Penske is hopeful that both of his horses can make it.

“I guess we’ll look at the scoreboard in three more races and find out whether it’s been a success or not,” he said. “But I’m going to tell our guys to do what they’ve been doing, work smart, bring their car home.”

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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