Team Penske pit crews feature wholesale changes at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 26: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, 2019 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Joey Logano and his No. 22 Team Penske team are putting the old band back together.

And why not? It worked well in last year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship run.

In the fall race at Martinsville in 2018, jackman Graham Stoddard moved to Logano’s car to bolster the title run after teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney had been eliminated from the Playoffs.

This year, Stoddard, who has been jacking Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, once again shifts to Logano’s team at Martinsville, along with tire carrier Wade Moore, also from Blaney’s over-the-wall crew. The difference?

Blaney is still alive in the Playoffs, so the adjustments went further. Blaney inherits Keselowski’s entire No. 2 crew, after Keselowski was eliminated from title contention last Sunday at Kansas.

That leaves three members of Blaney’s former crew and the two replaced members of Logano’s to service Keselowski’s car for the rest of the season.

Though Logano is fourth in the Playoff standings and a mere two points clear of Kevin Harvick in fifth, the reigning Cup champion seemed more excited than concerned by the personnel changes.

“No, it doesn’t concern me,” Logano said on Saturday after opening practice at Martinsville. “We had a rookie jackman this year (Nathan Ricketts) who has made a lot of good gains over this season, but I feel the opportunity to put basically the same team together that won the championship last year for the next few races I think was a smart play.

“We definitely needed some speed from the pit crew side of things, and putting the band back together from where it was last year when we won the championship makes sense, so I was on board with that.”

Team Penske’s NASCAR competition director Travis Geisler explained the rationale for the switches.

“We’re always constantly evaluating who has the hot hand at the moment, what groups are going to be the best where,” Geisler said. “When the 2 car didn’t advance to this round, we all kind of had to look at things and decide what was there that could potentially help some of the other groups.”

SHORT STROKES

Before opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice on Saturday, driver Matt Tifft was transported by ambulance to a local hospital with an as-yet-undisclosed medical condition. NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship contender Matt Crafton replaced him in the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford and was 31st fastest in both practice sessions. Tifft was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 and returned to racing after surgery to remove it…

Joey Logano topped the speed chart in opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice on Saturday with a best lap at 96.657 mph. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin were second and third fastest in the session. Brad Keselowski paced the field in Happy Hour with a lap at 96.283 mph, followed by Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch.

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