2017 Team and Sponsor Previews: JTG Daugherty and Team Penske

By Kraig Doremus, @Kraig_Doremus

Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski (2) and Joey Logano (22) battle for position. Photo via athlonsports.com

Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski (2) and Joey Logano (22) battle for position. Photo via athlonsports.com

As the 2017 season draws closer, we continue our season previews. This edition features JTG Daugherty Racing, now a multicar team, and the historic Team Penske organization.

JTG Daugherty Overview

After 15 years in the Xfinity Series, Tad and Jodi Geschickter made the jump to NASCAR’s top division in 2009. Today, JTG Daugherty Racing is co-owned by the couple, as well as ESPN Analyst Brad Daugherty. This year, they will add a second team with Chris Buescher joining the organization.

JTG Daugherty Drivers

A.J. Allmendinger: After winning at Watkins Glen in 2014 and finishing 14th in the standings, Allmendinger, the driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing machine, has failed to find victory lane and has not finished in the top 15 in points over the past two seasons.

There were some bright spots in 2016, as the 35-year-old California native finished in the top-10 nine times, one shy of his career-best. He recorded a pair of top five finishes, while posting an average finish position of 17.8.

Allmendinger finished 2016 ranked 19th in the final standings. His best finish came in 2014, the year of his only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. That season, he made the playoffs and finished 13th in points.

A.J. Allmendinger's 2017 ride. Photo from racingusa.com

A.J. Allmendinger's 2017 ride. Photo from racingusa.com

Stability could be Allmendinger’s best friend in 2017. Kroger returns as the primary sponsor for 24 races, continuing its partnership with JTG, which it has had since 2010. The grocery chain signed a multi-year deal to stay with the No. 47 team in 2015, but enters the final year of its deal this season.

According to Bob Pockrass, Kingsford Charcoal and Clorox are signed through the upcoming season and set to sponsor ten races. Multiple other sponsors, including Bush’s Beans, Hungry Jack and Scotts Products, could find themselves on the hood of Allmendinger’s ride this year.

With the same sponsors on board, a contract that runs through 2020, according to the popular NASCAR site Jayski, and a teammate joining the shop this season, Allmendinger could be primed for success this season.

A colleague will be incredibly important for the #47 crew. Now, data can be shared among two teams, instead of Allmendinger’s team relying only on its technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

The organization will have a method to compare data and make the necessary changes on a weekly basis. Perhaps the data sharing will allow the team to increase its speed, as well as handling, and make the playoffs for the second time in four years.

Making the playoffs and winning races will be vital if the #47 team wants to compete with the sport’s elite teams like Hendrick and Gibbs.  

Chris Buescher: For the first time in team history, JTG will field a second team. Chris Buescher comes over from Front Row Motorsports, to drive the No. 37 JTG Chevy. The team is leasing a charter from the No. 16 Roush Fenway team, which parted ways with Greg Biffle and ceased operations after the 2016 season.

Buescher is just 24 years old and enters his second full-time season in NASCAR’s Cup Series. He won a rain-shortened Pocono race in 2016, securing a playoff berth after finishing in the top 30 in points at the conclusion of the regular season.

Despite a first-round playoff exit, Buescher turned heads by being the first rookie to win a race in 2016, doing so before household names like Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. The win was one of two top-five finishes he recorded, the other coming at Bristol in August.

He is under contract with Roush Fenway Racing, but has been loaned to two teams (FRM and now JTG Daugherty) and will be in a Chevrolet this year, rather than a Ford, which is the manufacturer for RFR.

Driving a Chevy rather than a Ford is certainly a unique situation, one which the 2015 Xfinity Series champion recognized. He told MRN, “…this is the best way to go on the racetrack and be competitive, get more seat time and be ready to come back for 2018 in whatever that brings. Right now, Roush has said the plan would be to get three teams started back again in 2018 and me go back there."

A lack of sponsorship forced the No. 16 team to cease operation rather than moving Buescher to the car in place of Biffle.

Buescher knows that this is very likely a stop-over year, however, he should be much more competitive in the No. 37.

Right now, it looks as if Kroger will sponsor the car, as it does his teammate Allmendinger. It’s a good move for Kroger, not only because it strengths its relationship with JTG Daugherty, but also because it will receive more exposure on a second car, one that is driven by an up and coming driver.

Kroger’s sponsorship of the No. 37 was first reported by Jayski.

Team Penske Overview

Team Penske made its NASCAR debut in 1972 and also won the Indy 500 that same year. Roger Penske fielded a team in the Cup Series until 1977 and again briefly in 1980, before taking a hiatus from stock car racing. In 1991, Penske Racing South (now Team Penske) reemerged in Cup racing with driver Rusty Wallace. Today, the organization is one of NASCAR’s most well-known company’s and employs two drivers, 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski and 2016 MENCS runner-up Joey Logano.

Team Penske Drivers

Brad Keselowski: The 2012 Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford has made NASCAR’s version of the playoffs in all but one of his full-time seasons, and every year since 2011.

His first win came at Talladega in 2009, where he earned James Finch for his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Victory. The following year Keselowski drove the No. 12 Team Penske car, before sliding into the No. 2 Ford, sponsored by Miller Lite.

Miller has a longstanding history with Roger Penske’s organization, dating back to mid-1980s. Last season, three of Keselowski’s four victories came when the beer company was the alpha sponsor.

2016 saw him race nearly two thirds of the season with sponsorship from Miller, which enters the final year of its contract with Penske this upcoming season. In 2017, the longstanding brewing company will sponsor the team for the same amount of races as the past few seasons (24).

Also returning in 2017 are sponsors Alliance Truck Worth, Wurth, Autotrader and SKF. Alliance will sponsor eight races, according to Jayski, while Wurth has rights to three races, Autotrader two, and SKF a single event.

Alliance’s eight race deal for 2017 is up from six events last year. Keslelowski did not win in Alliance colors, but did finish runner-up at Pocono in August and Martinsville in October.

Brad Keselowski (foreground) leads A.J. Allmendinger and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Photo from cnd.inquistir.com

Brad Keselowski (foreground) leads A.J. Allmendinger and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Photo from cnd.inquistir.com

Jayski states that this is the final year for both the championship winning driver, as well as crew chief Paul Wolfe. Don’t expect the pair to go anywhere though. The duo has been together since 2011 and has won 20 races as a team, including 11 over the past three seasons.

Although the team finished 12th in the final standings, it recorded top-10 finishes in 2014 and 2015. If they can perform in the playoffs and avoid finishes outside the top-30 (three in the 2016 playoffs), the No. 2 group should be in contention for its second championship since 2011.

Joey Logano: The past three seasons have seen Logano win 14 times and make the playoffs each year, yet each season ended without a championship.

The Middletown, Connecticut native finished as the runner-up in last year’s point standings and if the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske machine has a repeat year, he could secure his first championship in 2017.

He signed a contract extension back in 2014, which runs through the 2018 season, per Jayski. After signing the multi-year deal, Logano made it clear that he was excited and expected to compete for championships, something he has done throughout his contract.

In September 2014, Logano said, “I am fortunate and excited to be a part of Team Penske for the foreseeable future. He added, “Mr. Penske gives us everything we need to keep our eye on the prize and compete for wins and championships.”

Shell-Penzoil will sponsor the No. 22 Ford Fusion for 32 races. It has been associated with Penske in the Cup Series since 2011, but the partnership between the two organizations began back in the 1983 in the Indycar Series.

Last season, each of Logano’s three wins came with Shell-Penzoil on his machine. His lowest finish in Shell’s colors was a 39th place showing at Kentucky, but his average finish was just outside the top 10 (10.11).

Sponsor AAA nearly found themselves in the winner’s circle with Logano, but his best finish was a runner-up performance at the November Texas race. Finally, Autotrader will be on board the car for a pair of races, doubling its alpha sponsorship total from 2017, while SKF will adorn Logano’s car for a single race.

If a contract extension is not in the works, look for Penske to lock up Logano for the foreseeable future. His sponsors have had solid results despite the fact that team still lacks a championship ring.

At the young age of 26, Logano is one of NASCAR’s top talents. With consistent finishes, the No. 22 team could capture its first championship this upcoming season.

 

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