Ford EcoBoost 300

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.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish

It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.

Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.

As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.

His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.

The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.