Penske No. 22 takes NNS owner’s title by one point

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Roger Penske got almost everything he wanted Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

By virtue of a sixth-place result in the Ford Ecoboost 300, Penske Racing driver Joey Logano secured the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series owner’s championship for The Captain’s No. 22 squad by just one point over the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team.

Additionally, Brad Keselowski – who got six of his seven NNS wins this season in the No. 22 – got the race win for the Penske No. 48 camp.

Of course, Penske was happier about those two things than the outcome of the NNS driver’s championship, which saw his man Sam Hornish Jr. lose to Austin Dillon by just three points.

“Without Joey and without Brad, without Sam – when you think about 14 wins in a season, in any series, is outstanding,” Penske said of his NNS program as a whole. “[It’s] really a credit to the entire team.  Everyone back at the shop – we talk about the engine builder, Ford, Discount Tire, Hertz, AAA, those that have helped us – are committed to us going forward.

“I felt very sorry for Sam. I have to say I’ve never seen a race that was so important that you wait 15 or 16 laps before you have five laps to go. To me, that was very disappointing from the standpoint of the fans. Certainly, we as competitors, we came out fine. But when I think about it, it could have gone any way.”

The owner’s title for the No. 22 was truly a team effort. Four drivers earned wins in the car this season: The aforementioned Keselowski with six, Logano with three, A.J. Allmendinger with two, and Ryan Blaney with one. It’s a marked contrast to the No. 54 JGR team, which had all 12 of its wins logged by one driver: Kyle Busch, who finished third Saturday.

Penske said he wanted to see if his team could “rise to the occasion” against the JGR camp this year and that the expectation for the No. 22 camp was to win this particular title.

“I think it was just in our DNA from the beginning of the year,” he said.

As for Logano, the final laps were anxious times for him as he and Busch in the No. 54 took their battle all the way to the end. But “Sliced Bread” was able to jump six positions following the final restart with five laps to go, and it proved to be the difference.

“Coming down to the last race, last lap with the 54 team was insane,” Logano said. “We were sitting there, I think we were 12th in the last restart with five to go.

“You really don’t have an option at that point, you got to go. We had a set of tires on the thing. Like I said, coming down to the last lap – just crazy.”

Toro Rosso at crossroads after Kvyat’s point, Hartley’s strong debut

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In a weekend with something to prove at Circuit of The Americas, Daniil Kvyat rose to the occasion with what he called “his best race of the season for sure” at the United States Grand Prix.

But it may not be enough for the Russian to have saved his seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso for the three final races this year.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Brendon Hartley capped off his roller-coaster debut weekend in Formula 1 with a solid 13th place finish after starting from the rear of the grid, learning as the race went on and bringing home his Toro Rosso chassis to the flag.

Toro Rosso faces a dilemma of three drivers available but only two seats to fill for the final three Grands Prix, with the Mexican Grand Prix coming up just next week.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly will be back after missing Austin due to his Super Formula commitments at Suzuka in Japan, but ultimately that went for naught as the races were canceled due to a typhoon.

Kvyat qualified 12th, was promoted to 11th by way of grid penalties and ended 10th, scoring a point for only the third race this year and first time since coming ninth in the Spanish Grand Prix back in May.

It was a weekend where he would have been expected to outdo Hartley, and did so, but not by a massive margin. And he was already coming in with a track time disadvantage, losing out in FP1 as Indonesian Formula 2 driver Sean Gelael ran in his chassis.

As it was, he rated his weekend performance highly and didn’t do his chances of staying in the car any harm.

Speaking to NBCSN after the race, Kvyat said, “Yeah, it was a perfect race. I did everything well. Brought the points home. It was close with (Felipe) Massa.

“We had some energy release issues on the engine. But it was a massive weekend. It was great. I really enjoyed myself. It was a good job by the team to keep it together with very limited running.

Hartley built up confidence throughout the weekend as he learned the car, the Pirelli tires and how an F1 race races versus an endurance race that he’d been used to doing for several years.

Having coming into the weekend with no expectations and just taking the race session-by-session, he felt good at the end of it.

“There’s so many little things to reflect on,” he told NBCSN. “I’ll put the eyes at rest and process it all. I did the standing start and it wasn’t the best… it’s been a long time.

“But yeah, (you’re learning) in terms of following in traffic, what 20 laps on these tires means, how much you can push it. I’m pretty satisfied. The pace was pretty strong. I made the mistake of getting passed by (Lance) Stroll. I couldn’t pass him back. Lots of challenges. I hope I can get another shot at it.

“Up until this moment… I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to do the job. I’m really relaxed. Now there might be some conversations.”

Toro Rosso figures to reveal its Mexican Grand Prix driver lineup early this week.