Team Penske plans on working together in an effort to win a second title.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – It would not have been a champion contender’s press conference without Kevin Harvick firing the first shot on Wednesday.
This year’s target? Joey Logano.
While Denny Hamlin has been on the receiving end of Harvick’s barbs before and veteran Ryan Newman can out-mind game Harvick under the table, this weekend marks Logano’s first run at the Sprint Cup title - and his first encounter with the wrath of "Happy".
Harvick made reference to Talladega Speedway where team orders came into play for the Penske teammates. Harvick accused the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford blocking for Penske teammate Brad Keselowski and suggested that remuneration could be in order for Logano this weekend.
“I thought you were going to say that you were going to send Brad out to be a moving chicane the way you were at Talladega,” Harvick said.
The Team Penske racer brushed Harvick off and insisted, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Kevin.”
“Maybe you should ask Roger (Penske, team owner),” Harvick added.
When Keselowski saw the tweets referring to the exchange, he replied to one:
During the Nationwide and Truck Series Champions press conference on Thursday, Keselowski reiterated that he would support Logano any way possible in Team Penske’s quest to earn a second Sprint Cup title.
I just want to be there for my teammate and show him he’s not on an island by himself.
“I told Joey I had his back,” Keselowski said. “Whether that’s Kevin, Denny, Ryan or some other guys. I wanted him to know I was there for him to support him. Other than that, he’s a big guy. He knows how to race. He’s gotten to this level and to this point because of that.
“I just want to be there for my teammate and show him he’s not on an island by himself. He’s not alone. I think he knows that.”
Keselowski cites Logano’s 2014 record of five wins, an 11.2 average finish (best of the four contenders) and the depth of the No. 22 Penske Ford as to why he’ll be a threat on Sunday.
Standing his ground
As for Keselowski watching his own back at Homestead this weekend, he didn’t seem concerned. Now that he’s been eliminated from the Chase, Keselowski’s personal goal is winning on Sunday.
“I don’t feel I have anything to worry about,” Keselowski said with a laugh. “Payback for what? If payback for anything is racing the way I race, then I don’t really consider that payback. I consider that hard racing and I support that.”
Despite the ire he’s attracted from his fellow competitors this season, the 2012 Sprint Cup Champion refuses to change the driving characteristics that earned him his first title.
Still, there seems to be a double standard between what is “hard racing” such as Newman’s move with Kyle Larson at Phoenix and what turned out to be a Chase ending move between Keselowski and Jeff Gordon one week earlier at Texas.
I’m a threat to those that are established in the sport. I understand that.
“Clearly, the standards are different across the driver platforms,” Keselowski said. “I think we all see that. I can sweat that or I can sit here and point out that I’m still the youngest one of the guys that have won a championship in the last decade which makes me kind of the newest guy in the circle.
“I’m a threat to those that are established in the sport. I understand that. I accept that and they’re going to try to put a double standard on me to hold us back. I’m not going to stand for it and I’m to continue to do the things I do knowing that and hoping it will put me in a position to be a threat for many years to come.”