With the 2020 NASCAR season officially over, it’s time to take a look back at how each team performed over the course of the season. Previous team reviews include JTG-Daugherty Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s time for Team Penske and the Wood Brothers.
4 wins, 13 top 5s, 24 top 10s, 2nd in the points standings
3 wins, 12 top 5s, 21 top 10s, 3rd in the standings
1 win, 11 top 5s, 17 top 10s, 9th in the standings
Wood Brothers Racing
3 top 5s, 11 top 10s, 13th in the standings
Did you know the Wood Brothers have had a driver finish in the top 15 in the points standings just three times in the last 25 years?
After Morgan Shepherd was in the top 15 in each of his four seasons with the team from 1992-1995, only Michael Waltrip in 1996 (14th) and Blaney in 2017 (ninth) had finished in the top 15 before DiBenedetto joined the club in 2020.
DiBenedetto made the playoffs on points and then finished ahead of three other playoff drivers in the final standings thanks to a second-place finish at Las Vegas and finishes of eighth, 10th and eighth in the final three races of the season. Those three races pushed him from 15th to 13th in the standings.
Perhaps coincidentally — or perhaps not — those races came after DiBenedetto’s 2021 was figured out. The Penske affiliate announced in October that DiBenedetto had been re-signed for another season while 2020 Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric would run part-time in the Cup Series in 2021.
Blaney’s season was a frustrating one. Yeah, he won at Talladega and was ninth in the points but he alternated stretches of great runs with stretches of poor finishes.
He went fourth, second, third and first in the early summer before finishing 12th and 22nd at Pocono and 32nd at Indianapolis. He then had four finishes outside the top 20 over races Nos. 22-31 and finished the season with finishes of fifth, seventh, fourth, second and sixth.
Blaney was seventh in laps led, eighth in top fives and 10th in top 10s. Ultimately, ninth was about right.
Logano and Keselowski combined to give Penske two drivers in the final four for the first time. And they ended up finishing second and third to Chase Elliott at Phoenix. Keselowski was a sneaky favorite for the title given that three of his four wins had come at short tracks earlier in the season. But he led just 16 laps at Phoenix and didn’t lead at any point over the last 100 circuits.
If you believe that Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were the two best drivers over the entirety of the 2020 season, then Keselowski was No. 3. He finished outside the top ten just five times in the 21 races between NASCAR’s May restart and the end of the regular season.
Logano was the last leader of the race not-named Elliott. The 2020 champ took over the lead on lap 270 and led the final 43 laps as Logano faded to third behind Keselowski.
Logano won two of the first four races of the season ahead of the pandemic-induced stoppage of the season. When NASCAR returned, he wasn’t nearly as good. Logano finished outside the top 10 in 10 of the first 15 races back. After finishing 35th at Kansas, Logano reeled off six consecutive top 10s and climbed back into the top five in the standings. A win at Kansas in the fall then got him to the title race.
Four cars in the top 13 in points and two drivers racing for the title for the first time equals a solid season for Team Penske. And the entire gang will be back in 2021 as both Blaney and Keselowski re-signed for the upcoming season in addition to DiBenedetto.
Can Penske make more gains and get a third car to the periphery of title contention? It hasn’t had Blaney, Keselowski and Logano all in the third round of the playoffs at the same time. 2021 could reasonably be that season — though there will have to be a slump from another team to help facilitate that.
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