Is Penske the New Top Ford Team in NASCAR?

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Is Penske the New Top Ford Team in NASCAR?
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Brad Keselowski (No. 2) and Joey Logano (No. 22) have won three times in 2014.

Considering that Jack Roush is synonymous with Ford, it is strange to see that his empire in stock car racing isn't what it once was.

Look at how things were 10 years ago. Mark Martin still piloted the iconic No. 6, Greg Biffle would post two more wins in what would be a trying sophomore season in the No. 16, Matt Kenseth was fresh off a championship season in the No. 17, Kurt Busch was on his way to a championship in the inaugural Chase for the NEXTEL Cup in the No. 97 and Carl Edwards would soon be turning heads in his limited run in the No. 99. 

A decade ago, Roush was on top of the NASCAR world and looked to be unbeatable.

Meanwhile, Penske Racing was going through some struggles with the No. 2 Dodge of Rusty Wallace and the No. 12 of Ryan Newman in 2004. While Wallace would go on to record a lone win early in the season at Martinsville, Newman would go on to win twice, at Michigan and Dover. This was a far cry from the eight-win season Newman enjoyed in 2003.

Now in 2014, only Biffle and Edwards remain with Roush. Both Biffle and Edwards have struggled in recent seasons, recording a mere six wins between the two since 2012. The organization has only won nine times since 2012, when Kenseth won three times in his final year with Roush.

Meanwhile, looking at the Penske organization a decade later is like looking at a completely different team. Although they won their first Cup championship with a Dodge in 2012, the team has been revitalized through their connection with Ford Racing. On top of that, with 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski piloting the No. 2 and Joey Logano piloting the No. 22, it's safe to say that Penske is a top-tier team capable of contending for more championships. 

Sure, Penske is only in their second season with Ford since 2002. That season only saw a Penske Ford in Victory Lane twice, both times with Newman. However, since the beginning of 2013, Penske Fords have won five times (twice with Keselowski and three times with Logano), with both Keselowski and Logano settled comfortably in the Chase field this season.

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Edwards has been the only Roush winner in 2014, having won at Bristol early in the season.

In comparison, look at Roush. 2013 Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is still growing in the No. 17 Ford, while Biffle hasn't seriously contended for a title since 2008. Meanwhile, since his championship-tying campaign in 2011, Edwards hasn't been nearly as consistent since, and talk of a possible departure from Roush after the 2014 season has been intensifying. As for the No. 6 Ford made popular by Mark Martin? It was shuttered after David Ragan left the team after the 2011 season.

If that's not a large enough indicator, take a look at their Nationwide efforts. Granted, Stenhouse managed to win the Nationwide title in 2011 and 2012. Prior to that Edwards, who ran several full seasons coinciding with his Cup Series campaigns, had placed consistently in the top three in points and had won the 2007 title.

However, 2013 only saw a single Roush-Fenway Ford win in the Nationwide Series when Trevor Bayne won at Iowa in June. Meanwhile, rookie Travis Pastrana failed to turn heads and finished a disappointing 14th in points after only recording four top-10s.

2014 is shaping up to be much of the same for the Roush-Fenway group, although Bayne has shown more promise in the No. 6 this season. Meanwhile, rookie Chris Buescher does look to fare a little bit better than Pastrana in the No. 60, but aside from a runner-up at Talladega, it doesn't look like he'll be turning too many heads this season.

Is Team Penske the top Ford team in NASCAR?

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But looking at the Penske Nationwide program, it's a wonder that they have yet to win another Nationwide driver's championship (Keselowski won the title in 2010). In 2013, they won 13 times, with 12 victories among four drivers (Logano, Keselowski, A.J. Allmendinger, Ryan Blaney) coming in the No. 22. The No. 22 would go on to win the Owner's Championship in 2013. 

As it stands at the moment, Team Penske is running circles around the Roush-Fenway Racing organization. They've been stronger this season and have been going to Victory Lane more often than the Roush Fords, who seem to be on a steady decline. Unless Roush manages to right their wrongs and solve their issues, there will be a day when we see what was once another powerhouse become just another entry on the grid.

 

Joseph Shelton is also a contributor to SpeedwayMedia.com and Motorsport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Shelton500

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