By Jordan McAbee
There’s nothing wrong with Penske.
After the #2 and #22 Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano struggled at Atlanta last weekend, many of those in the Fantasy NASCAR world were concerned about the possibility of the Penske teams struggling with this new rules package that the Sprint Cup cars have adapted in 2016.
Any possibility of that went out the window in Las Vegas on Sunday, though, as Keselowski and Logano finished 1-2 in the Kobalt 400. It was Keselowski’s first Sprint Cup win in nearly a year, the last coming at Auto Club Speedway in March of 2015.
A Race to Remember
This week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be one that race goers (and viewers) will remember for quite a while. The wind wreaked havoc for the Sprint Cup teams all day, with gusts reaching 45+ mph. There was also a brief sand storm during the second half of the event that postponed the racing for a few minutes.
In the end, we saw strategy play an important role in the outcome of the race for the second week in a row. During the final round of pit stops, Keselowski and Logano decided to stay out while almost the entire rest of the field pitted. Austin Dillon, who was mired back in the teens at the time, also decided to gamble and stay out.
It was a move that worked out for all three teams, with Keselowski grabbing the biggest jackpot. As mentioned before, Joey Logano came home 2nd while Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5 in 5th. Jimmie Johnson, who won last week, led the most laps in the Kobalt 400 and ended up 3rd, barely edging out hometown driver Kyle Busch at the start/finish line.
Kenseth Continues to Struggle
It was another race in which Matt Kenseth had a top 5 car but didn’t get the finish he deserved. In the final stages of Sunday’s Kobalt 400, Kenseth–who was running inside the top 5 for most of the day–got loose in the corner and nearly spun. He eventually saved it, but decreased in speed so much that those behind him had nowhere to go, specifically Chase Elliott, who ran into the back of the #20 Toyota, ending the day for both of those cars. Elliott was once again having a top 10 run before that incident.
It’s been a frustrating start to the season for the #20 team, as well as the fantasy owners of Matt Kenseth. Through three 2016 races, Kenseth’s best finish has been 14th despite the fact that he has led laps in all of the events thus far. He was considered by many as one of the favorites to win each of the last two weeks, and not even being able to muster a top 10 finish so far has to be having an effect on the morale of the team.
And it’s not looking much better. Next week we go to Phoenix International Raceway, a track where Matt Kenseth has just two top 10s in his last nine starts. It’s too early in the season to be overly concerned about this #20 team, but it puts Fantasy NASCAR players in a peculiar position: typically the best move is to pick the fastest cars, but how much can you trust Matt Kenseth right now?
After Phoenix, we head out to Auto Club Speedway, a track where Kenseth has went to victory lane three times throughout his Sprint Cup career. This #20 team desperately needs a good run to turn their mojo around, but that likely won’t be possible until week 5 of the 2016 season.