Weekend Preview: Team Penske tandem tries to build on 2014 New Hampshire reign

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 14, 2014:  Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, talk in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 14, 2014: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, talk in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Team Penske shopmates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano both participated in arguably the coolest victory celebration in all of NASCAR last season.

Both drivers earned the right to stand at the podium and hoist a gargantuan lobster over their head after winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski took the checkered flag at New Hampshire last July, while Logano won there in September, making them the first pair of teammates to ever sweep the track known as “The Magic Mile.”

The duo will try to continue Team Penske’s New Hampshire win streak in Sunday’s 5-hour ENERGY 301 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“Last year was special as we are the only team to sweep both races at New Hampshire to date and that is something we can all feel good about,” said Keselowski, who claims six top-10 finishes in his last seven visits to the New England track. “This team is hungry right now which I think is a good thing. We’re ready to get back to Victory Lane.”

Last week at Kentucky, Team Penske got the closest it’s been to Victory Lane since Keselowski’s win at Auto Club. Logano finished second and Keselowski placed sixth. Both are firmly locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with one win each, but are off their first-place pace from last season when Keselowski led the series with six victories and Logano ranked tied for second with five.

“All year long, I’ve said we have been just missing some speed in these cars,” Logano said. “But what we are missing in speed, we are making up in execution. That is why we have more top fives and top 10s than we did last year at this point. However, we need to get that speed back to have a chance to win races and that’s what we did last weekend. I think we have as good a shot as anyone.”

New Hampshire serves as a special place for Logano. Not only is it the site of his first career start (Sept. 14, 2008) and win (June 28, 2009), it is also the closest track to his hometown of Middletown, Connecticut.

“I think we had a car that could have won at both (New Hampshire) races last year, we just got wrecked in the first race while we were running second,” Logano said. “That’s stuff that happens. We just need to continue executing and do what we do as a team. This is probably the most important track to me on the schedule because it really is my home track we are doing a lot of stuff with my foundation around the race weekend here. So to win would just cap off an amazing weekend.”

Suárez, Wallace roll into New Hampshire tied in Sunoco Rookie race

The NASCAR XFINITY Series has provided a multitude of compelling storylines this season.

Fans tune in every week to see Chase Elliott attempt to successfully defend his championship, Team Penske battle Joe Gibbs Racing for the owner’s title and Chris Buescher solidify himself as NASCAR’s next ace driver.

Darrell Wallace Jr.. (Getty Images)

Darrell Wallace Jr.. (Getty Images)

One overlooked narrative has been the NASCAR XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year race. Darrell Wallace Jr. held the lead through the first 16 races of the season, but was finally caught by Daniel Suárez last weekend at Kentucky Speedway, who drew even with Wallace (188 points each) by producing a fourth-place finish.

The next bout in Wallace and Suárez’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year showdown is Saturday’s Lake Regions 200 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. The two NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity alumni will attempt to pull away from each other in their first XFINITY Series starts at the track known as “The Magic Mile.”

Despite being new to driving XFINITY cars at New Hampshire, Wallace and Suarez both have bountiful experience there in other series.

In his lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at NHMS last season, Wallace started third and finished second. The No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing driver made five NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts in the Granite State from 2010-12, earning one pole (2011), three top fives and four top 10s.

“Loudon has always been a good place for me, going back to the K&N days,” Wallace said. “It’s just a big Martinsville, and I feel like we get around there pretty well. I’m excited to get on track this weekend.”

Suarez enters the race riding a streak of two top 10s in his last three races. Like Wallace, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has made NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts at NHMS, posting three top 10s, including a runner-up finish in 2013.

“I think this coming weekend has a chance to be a very positive one for the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry team,” Suarez said. “New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a track that I like a lot. … I think we’re getting better as a team every week. We’re more competitive and spending more time up front every week, but we still have to keep pushing and learning. We know there’s still more work to be done and we’re looking forward to doing it.”

NASCAR Race Weekend Guide

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Race: 5-hour ENERGY 301
Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Sunday, July 19 at 1:30 p.m. (ET)
Tune-In: NBCSN, 1 p.m. (ET), PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 318.46 miles (301 laps)

What to Watch For: Eleven different drivers have won the last 11 races at New Hampshire. Will a new victor emerge on Sunday? … Kyle Busch rolls into New Hampshire on a hot streak after winning two of the last three races. … Joe Gibbs Racing tries to continue its momentum from Kentucky Speedway where it placed four drivers in the top five. … Kyle Larson searches for a Chase berth at “The Magic Mile” where he claims a second and a third-place finish in two career starts.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Next Race: Lakes Region 200
Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, July 18 at 4 p.m. (ET)
Tune-In: NBCSN, 3:30 p.m. (ET), PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 211.6 miles (200 laps)

What to Watch For: Heavyweights Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch are entered in Saturday’s race at New Hampshire. Keselowski has won in his last two starts at the 1.058-mile track, while Busch leads the series with four career victories there. … Chris Buescher tries to increase the standings lead he has held for the last seven races. … Elliott Sadler makes his 150th consecutive XFINITY Series start. He ranks fourth in the series points standings.

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