NASCAR’s new low-downforce package that was used at Phoenix Raceway this weekend continued the close racing that has propelled the NASCAR Cup Series to one of its best starts in recent years as Joey Logano posted his second win of the season and the twenty-fifth of his career.
The win didn’t come easy as the race went into overtime setting up another green-white-checkered finish that had the makings of a two driver duel between Logano and Kevin Harvick.
Harvick was able to get to the side of Logano between Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap but that was as close as the Stewart Haas Racing driver could get as Logano’s Ford crossed the finish line .276 seconds ahead of Harvick. Logano now becomes the 35th driver in NASCAR Cup Series history with at least 25 wins. Logano at age 29 joins a very exclusive list of drivers that posted their 25th win before turning 30. He now joins Jeff Gordon (25 years old), Richard Petty (26) and Kyle Busch (27) as the only drivers to reach the milestone at such an early age.
Logano wasn’t the only driver to be making news for Penske Racing at Phoenix over the weekend as it was announced that his teammate Ryan Blaney has agreed to a contract extension.
The signing has no doubt kicked off the annual ritual in the sport known as the Silly Season. Long-time fans of the sport know that the Silly Season is a constant rumor mill of which seats will be open for the following season and which drivers might be moving to a new ride.
Blaney’s signing came as somewhat of a surprise not in the fact that he is staying with Penske Racing but that the deal was done so early in the season. Besides being one of the most talented young drivers in the sport, Penske had to also be looking at some of the seats that may be open for next year and that was the motivation behind getting a deal with Blaney signed so early. Penske Racing must now turn its attention to its third driver Brad Keselowski who is also set to become a free agent at the end of the season. In an interview at Phoenix, he said that there had been no contract talks with Penske at this point and that he could see himself in the Series for another 10 years. P
enske is the only organization that he has raced full time at the Cup level and the two have won a championship together. Resigning Keselowski may be a tougher task than resigning Blaney as his name has already been mentioned for several rides that may be open for next season.
The retirement of Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson at the end of the year will be opening one of the best rides in the sport and Keselowski’s name seems to always come up as one of the drivers that may be in line to fill that seat. Of course, that is speculation as the number of driver’s that would be willing to take their talents to HMS has to be lengthy but it does put Keselowski in a good position when it is time to sit down and begin contract talks with Penske.
Kyle Larson who is in the final year of his contract with Chip Ganassi is another driver that may be a candidate for the soon to be vacant No. 48 Chevrolet at HMS. He has been with owner Chip Ganassi for several years and even though the pair has not posted the numbers that they envisioned, the two have a built a solid team that always seems to be close of posting that breakout season.
This is only a couple of names that have already surfaced to fill Johnson’s seat at season’s end but with Blaney’s signing over the weekend, the pieces of the never ending puzzle of Silly Season may already be lining up to fall in place.