NASCAR Barometer: Keselowski Wins Penske Racing’s 100th

NASCAR Barometer: Keselowski Wins Penske Racing’s 100th

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano teamed up to stay in front of the field in the final miles of Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 to earn Penske Racing's 100th victory. It was Keselowski's third win in 2016 and was the result of a dominating performance where he led 115 of the race's 161 laps. His success at Talladega Speedway was lacking at Daytona until Saturday's convincing win. Most fitting, however, was the teamwork between Keselowski and Logano to help keep the No. 2 machine ahead of the other contenders on each of the restarts at the end of the race. It was the Penske pairing vs. the rest of the field and quintessential teamwork made the difference in the storied organization's landmark win.

UPGRADE

Brad Keselowski – Things went perfectly for Keselowski Saturday night despite him not having the greatest success at Daytona earlier in his career. He started the race with his best qualifying performance at the track, and found himself out front from the midway point until the finish. A lot of credit for his win has to go to teammate Joey Logano who gave the No. 2 car the pushes he needed to stay out front in the final restarts. It was his third win of the season and gives him a full momentum heading to one of his best tracks. He won two of the five visits to Kentucky Speedway, and has been one of the most successful drivers in the short time the series has

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano teamed up to stay in front of the field in the final miles of Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 to earn Penske Racing's 100th victory. It was Keselowski's third win in 2016 and was the result of a dominating performance where he led 115 of the race's 161 laps. His success at Talladega Speedway was lacking at Daytona until Saturday's convincing win. Most fitting, however, was the teamwork between Keselowski and Logano to help keep the No. 2 machine ahead of the other contenders on each of the restarts at the end of the race. It was the Penske pairing vs. the rest of the field and quintessential teamwork made the difference in the storied organization's landmark win.

UPGRADE

Brad Keselowski – Things went perfectly for Keselowski Saturday night despite him not having the greatest success at Daytona earlier in his career. He started the race with his best qualifying performance at the track, and found himself out front from the midway point until the finish. A lot of credit for his win has to go to teammate Joey Logano who gave the No. 2 car the pushes he needed to stay out front in the final restarts. It was his third win of the season and gives him a full momentum heading to one of his best tracks. He won two of the five visits to Kentucky Speedway, and has been one of the most successful drivers in the short time the series has been racing there.

Kyle Busch – Busch tried every trick in the bag to win Saturday night, even making a fuel-only stop to gain track position, which beat Keselowski out of the pits under yellow. It wasn't enough, though. He spent all night at the front of the order on Saturday, but even working with his brother to overtake Keselowski in the final restarts didn't give him the edge he needed for another victory to add to his 2016 resume. Despite not winning, the race should give him momentum to push for another shot at winning this week in Kentucky. Busch is another driver who has found instant success there. He has never finished outside of the top 10 at the track and has two wins.

Kurt Busch – Being one of the best restrictor-plate racers without a victory at one of the superspeedways is becoming Busch's calling card. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver drove another magnificent and intelligent Daytona race Saturday night, working his way into position to fight for the win as the miles wore down, only to come up short yet again. With continued performances like he had on Saturday, it shouldn't be long until Busch wins at Talladega or Daytona, but we've been saying that for many years already. The current season has been a good one for the No. 41 and he could be a serious championship contender if his success continues, though. He has two top-10 finishes at Kentucky, but no top-fives yet.

Casey Mears — It wasn't a huge surprise to see Mears fighting at the front of the field in the final miles of the Coke Zero 400, and it was a let down to see him collect damage with just a few miles remaining in the race. He has always been a good racer on restrictor plate circuits but hasn't found headline success in the series recently. However, every season he can be counted on to scrape out valuable results with his smaller team. Daytona may have been a better opportunity for Mears to score a top result than Kentucky, but fantasy owners should continue to expect him to punch above his weight. He has two best finishes of 18th at the track and finished 23rd there last season.

DOWNGRADE

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Earnhardt had one of the many cars caught up the biggest wreck Saturday night. His car suffered damage but he scraped through the pile up to continue in the race. His ability to force his way through the carnage allowed him to fight on and avoid a DNF, but the damaged car slowed his progress on the aero-sensitive circuit. After the contact, he was never able to come much farther forward in the order than the 20th position, and his 21st-place finish was his second finish outside of the top 20 in the last three races. Earnhardt has two top-fives in five Kentucky starts and continues searching for his first win of 2016. A win would settle the growing anxiousness about securing a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Tony Stewart – One week after winning in Sonoma, Stewart brought out a late caution in Daytona, ending his chance of contending for back-to-back victories. He abruptly lost control of his car late Saturday and involved both Carl Edwards and Casey Mears in the incident. Stewart couldn't continue, and any chance of a top finish was gone with the damage anyway. The former champion stayed in the race long enough to work his way just inside the top 30 in points to secure a spot in the Chase, but not being able to close out the effort extends his quest to make the endeavor a bit more comfortable. He'll get another shot at it this week in Kentucky where he has yet to finish inside the top 10.

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson's night at Daytona didn't start well. The team discovered a hole in the front of the No. 48 in the first 30 laps and had to make an extra stop to make repairs. The damage also included a penalty for having too many crewmen over the wall when making those repairs. Those two issues proved to be his downfall, as he was part initiator of the first big wreck halfway through Saturday's race. Damage from that crash eliminated his hopes of throwing off the bad luck that has stalked the team recently. Johnson needs to turn his luck around quickly, and Kentucky may be the place for him to do it. He has five top-10s from five starts at the track.

Chase Elliott – Daytona hasn't been kind to Elliott in his first two visits to the track as a Sprint Cup driver. He crashed out of February's Daytona 500, and was caught in another wreck halfway through Saturday's 400 miles. Damage to the No. 24 car ended his night and he tallied another dismal Daytona finish. While things look bright for Elliott's future, Saturday night's disappointment hurt his hopes of earning a spot in the Chase. A win could still solve that issue, but finishes like Daytona only make things harder. He finished fourth at Kentucky Speedway in the Xfinity series last September and never finished lower than 13th in his four series starts at the circuit.

Carl Edwards – Edwards continued his streak of not winning on restrictor plate tracks on Saturday. His two teammates were able to run at the front of the pack at various times on Saturday, but Edwards was mired a few rows farther back with seemingly no ability to come forward. That doomed his hopes when he was caught in Stewart's crash. He hasn't shown the edge that it takes to win at Daytona or Talladega throughout his career and Saturday did nothing to dissuade fantasy owners of that. His two Kentucky top-fives came in his first and latest start at the track, and getting away from Daytona will likely be a good thing for his potential to score top finishes and fight for wins.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Michael McDowell – Fantasy owners who decided to go with McDowell for Saturday's race in Daytona should be patting themselves on the back. The driver, who ranked 37th in points, added his first top-10 finish to his season statistics with a great drive to avoid trouble throughout Saturday's 400 miles and calmly moved into a top spot for the checkered flag. To put the finish in perspective, McDowell only had one top-20 result before Saturday's race. Now he has a top-10 to celebrate, and hopefully that means more top-20s and top-15s will follow. He has raced three times at Kentucky but failed to finish each of those tries. Perhaps some confidence from Daytona will propel him to the finish line this week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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