With teammate Brad Keselowski’s struggles, Joey Logano steps up to keep Team Penske in the game at Pocono

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Brad Keselowski’s hopes of a weekend sweep, adding a win in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Pocono to Saturday night’s victory in the Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway, came up way short.

Keselowski finished a disappointing 23rd in the GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono.

But teammate Joey Logano carried the torch for Team Penske and emerged with a solid third-place finish, helping to lessen the sting of Keselowski’s mediocre showing.

Logano tied Kurt Busch for second-most laps led (30 each), but didn’t quite have the car to catch Dale Earnhardt Jr. and runner-up Kevin Harvick in the closing laps of Sunday’s race.

Still, a third-place finish was quite good in a race that was marked with numerous strategies and gameplans that seemed to constantly change as circumstances changed.

First, teams were worried that rain would impact the event, so there were early-race strategies that eventually morphed into different strategies when the rain near-miraculously just disappeared before it got to the 2.5-mile tri-oval at Pocono.

Strategies changed as often as a model changes clothes at a fashion show.

“We had to work our way back up through the field,” Logano said of the hard work he had to do on at least a couple of restarts in Sunday’s race. “And that last restart, my plan was to push Kevin down into one and hopefully those two (Harvick and Earnhardt) would be door to door and fight for the race track and the seas would part for me.

“But Dale just went quite a bit earlier than I thought he would and I didn’t have the full momentum on Kevin and just was almost sleeping a little bit there, so I’m kind of bummed out a little bit about that.

“But overall I felt our Shell Pennzoil Ford was good. I felt it was about a third place car. I felt like the 88 (Earnhardt) and the 24 (Jeff Gordon) were probably the two best and I felt Kevin and I were pretty close to being about the same there.

“But overall a decent day. The last few weeks we finished where we deserved, not having the issues that we have had in the previous four or five weeks before that. So overall we’re gaining momentum.”

The Penske camp has been the shining light of the Ford camp this season, particularly against the Chevrolets of Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, as well as the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing.

“We’re in the hunt,” Logano said of Team Penske’s Fords. “I feel like our cars are definitely where they need to be. I feel like when we come to a race track like this where we’re able to shift, I think our motors go quite a bit better.

“Our motors run really well up at the top end, so when you get them singing, like we have here, when you down shift to third gear, our corner exits are a little bit better than what we have maybe at Indy, when we had a lower RPM coming off the corner.

“So we need to work on things like bottom end power, to become better, and then, obviously, the constant stuff that we always work on with aero and chassis and suspension and the typical stuff that everyone else is always working on.

“But I feel like that’s probably our weakest point right now is some bottom end power, our top end power is right where it needs to be, so I’ll keep looking forward on that, but that’s probably the biggest thing right there.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

Follow @JerryBonkowski