Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Roger Penske defends Sprint Cup drivers in wake of Daytona win

DAYTONA BEACH — One of Roger Penske's drivers, Brad Keselowski, had just used a dominating run to capture his first career victory at famed Daytona International Speedway. The win was the 100th for Penske's team at NASCAR's top level.

To get to Victory Lane, Penske's other driver, Joey Logano, had offered Keselowski an assist in the closing laps. Unrelated, Logano also spun another driver on the last lap to create another round of hard feelings.

So instead of basking in victory while wearing a champagne-soaked white shirt, Penske was borderline angry in passionately defending his drivers.

Keselowski's victory in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 was his third of 2016. He got a push on a final restart from Logano, who then irked Kurt Busch when contact on the final lap sent Busch spinning through the grass.

Busch, a former Penske driver, called it "an aggressive mistake," but his crew chief, Tony Gibson, fumed on Twitter: "Stupid is as stupid does!!!"

Penske thought it was unfair.

"Joey has taken, I think, some undue criticism, from my perspective," he said. "I could name three or four things that certainly weren't his fault. He's one of the best drivers on the racetrack out there day in and day out, and sure, people make mistakes. A lot of these drivers can knock somebody off the track, and they say, 'Hey, I'm sorry.' They don't let Logano do that. As far as I'm concerned, I'm behind him 300 percent, and I'll talk to Kurt. (Logano) didn't do it on purpose."

Penske is used to defending Logano, who was hyped as the next big thing as a teen (hence the early nickname "Sliced Bread"), then was recruited to the Penske team by Keselowski when Logano was on his way out at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Penske is also used to defending Keselowski, who is outspoken and doesn't back down from anything. But Penske apparently didn't believe he needed to defend Keselowski on Saturday. Already annoyed with the Logano flap, he misinterpreted a question about Keselowski's racing smarts and seemed to snap.

"He's a calculating guy, and you're not with him every day like we are in the shop, (seeing) what he brings to the race team," Penske said. "This is not a popularity contest, and anybody that thinks it is, you know, shouldn't be sitting here. This is racing, and unfortunately some people have different ideas. But look, I wouldn't trade these two drivers for anyone. They're young, they're aggressive, they win races."

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