Roger Penske accomplished something this season that the pioneering motorsports mogul had never done in his long and accomplished career with back-to-back NASCAR championships.
Ryan Blaney gave Penske back-to-back series titles in Phoenix last month after teammate Joey Logano won in 2022.
“You win one and you start again,” Penske said. “They don’t give you an extra round in front of everyone after you win one. Last year, Joey did a great job, and actually, when you think about it, last year in Phoenix, if you watched him, Ryan was a good winger. He had a fast car in Phoenix, so we knew he had the speed. »
This showed throughout last season as Blaney won three times, including twice in the playoffs and was fastest when it mattered most with eight top 10s in the last 12 races.
Blaney was thrilled with his championship after starring in two Penske firsts: winning the Coca-Cola 600 to combine with Josef Newgarden’s victory at the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend, then winning that NASCAR crown.
“You don’t often get the opportunity to do this, to do something for Roger that he’s never done before, and to be able to bring that to him is really, really special,” Blaney said.
Count on Blaney and Logano to go strong after a Penske hat-trick when the season begins next season.
A few other title contenders, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, will be worth watching after offseason surgeries.
Hamlin had declared 2023 to be his year before being knocked out of contention in the penultimate race of the season. He underwent shoulder surgery in November which he said was more complicated than expected. Hamlin said that would affect off-season preparations for next year.
Elliott had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and he thinks he’ll be ready for next year. He missed six races in 2023 after injuring his leg while snowboarding.
A healthy Elliott should make Hendrick Motorsports stronger than ever. Former champions Kyle Larson and William Byron had a combined 10 victories and finished second and third in the series standings.
NASCAR fans will have several new ways to stream after the sport’s seven-year media rights deal that includes Amazon, TNT and Max. The new deal is worth $7.7 billion, when factoring in the previously announced $1.1 billion contract with CW, according to Sports Business Journal. NASCAR did not detail the value of the contract.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE
The rebirth of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing under the leadership of former series champion Brad Keselowski, an owner who helped Jack Roush’s once-formidable program return to prominence this season. The program took drivers Chris Buescher and Keselowski to the playoffs, with Buescher winning three races and advancing to the final eight.
Kevin Harvick went through his final NASCAR season without a win, despite tributes and remembrances at nearly every stop on the circuit. The Stewart-Haas driver came close, finishing second to William Byron at Darlington in May. Harvick finishes his career with 60 wins and a record 14 consecutive playoff appearances, as well as a 2014 Series championship.
Ty Gibbs, the grandson of Joe Gibbs, was the 2022 Xfinity Series champion and backed that up by winning Rookie of the Year in his first full Cup Series season behind the wheel of his team’s No. 54 car. grandfather. Gibbs, 21, had nine top-10 finishes last season, his best being a fourth-place finish at Charlotte’s Roval course last October.
Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 NASCAR champion, considered leaving the cockpit of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 car at age 43 before signing a one-year extension. Several times throughout the year, Truex looked like a driver ready to join his contemporaries Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and now Harvick outside the NASCAR garage.
ONE TO WATCH
Noah Gragson is getting a second chance after a like on a social media post about the killing of George Floyd nearly cost him his NASCAR career. The talented 25-year-old has spent the last five months working on his personal growth and maturity following his dismissal from Legacy Motor Club. He was signed by Stewart-Haas Racing to drive the No. 10 formerly run by Aric Almirola.
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