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Penske Racing Shows Strength in Las Vegas
If you ever wondered whether Roger Penske's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization had team orders, Sunday's Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway answered that question thoroughly.
No, they don't.
In the closing laps of the race, defending series champion Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing held the lead with Team Penske's Joey Logano running second and Brad Keselowski situated in third. Keselowski clearly had the fastest car of the three drivers, but found himself in the worst track position with the laps quickly winding down on the 1.5-mile oval.
He got past Logano with eight laps to go, set his sights on Busch and then passed him for the win two laps later. Perhaps the most interesting part of those final laps is that Keselowski had a much, more difficult time getting past his own teammate than he did Busch.
"We knew we had a lot of long-run speed," said Keselowski in describing the end of the race. "Sure enough, we were able to hold off the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), who was really, really fast on his own.
"Next thing I knew, we were closing in on our teammate. Took a long time to get by Joey. He put up a heck of a fight. If anyone wants to say that your teammates lay over and give it to you, that's not how we are at Team Penske. We race each other hard, but clean. That was something to see and be a part of."
Logano said he wanted to win badly, as all good racers do.
"Man, we finished second so many times this year already, and this whole weekend we finished second," he said. "Second in every qualifying round; during qualifying; second in practice on Friday; second in the race. Just so close. I want to break through and get a trophy eventually. Still, nothing to hold our heads down about. It's not easy to finish second. I want to break through and get a trophy."
The victory also was the first this season for Team Penske as the organization celebrates its 50th year in motorsports. It is a distinctive season that didn’t go unnoticed by Sunday’s winner.
“The 50th is certainly something that's very special to all of us at Team Penske. To get that first win, it feels good,” Keselowski said. “But the 50 years is a lot bigger than me. I think as we move forward it is very amazing for any team to be relevant in 50 years, or stay relevant in 50 years.
“There are a lot of other sports where there are teams that have been good for 50 years, like the Yankees and so forth, but with significant ownership changes. Obviously Team Penske hasn't had that. That dynamic I think just showcases Roger's own strengths and his ability to put us in a great spot, to have the resources to be successful.”
In winning, Keselowski broke a 33-race winless streak and ending nearly a year of frustration.
"It's a great feeling. One of the best feelings," Keselowski said of knowing he had the best car in the race at the end. "It's a feeling I live for, a feeling I dream about quite often, being the fastest guy and having opportunity. We had the opportunity to win the race."
And he knew it.
"As soon as I passed Joey, I focused in on the 18 (Busch)," Keselowski said. "I watched him for one lap. When I saw his car, the way it was sliding and taking a set, the line he was running, I knew after that first lap that we could win the race."
And he did just that, making it three different winning drivers, teams and manufacturers in the first three races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.