The staff at Pit Box Press sat down once again to predict Team Penske’s season.
What are your expectations for Team Penske’s 2022 season? Do they all make the playoffs?
Walker (@Walker_Skeeter): I do think they’ll all make it. I expect Logano to make a deep run, and likely contend for a Championship 4 spot. I imagine Blaney will at least make it to the Round of 8 as well. The only real question mark is Austin Cindric. We’ve seen a number of highly touted rookies struggle in their first couple of seasons recently – Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Chase Briscoe to name a few. I imagine we’ll see something similar from Cindric, but I do think he’ll likely still make it.
Taylor (@Mashtaylor22): I think they will all make it. How far they all make it is the question. Since 2014 every even-numbered year Joey Logano has made the Championship 4 so I think he will be almost an automatic. Meanwhile, Blaney and Cindric are the question marks I think Cindric could make at least the Round of 12 while Blaney makes it to the round of 8. I don’t want to have too big of expectations but at the bare minimum, I think all of them will make the playoffs.
Phil (@philenespanol)- There’s a youth movement now at Penske, with Logano being the elder statesmen of the group. The question mark is Cindric, but I feel like he can turn that into an exclamation point with consistency early. I’d say yes to all three making it, but I could see Cindric being close to the cut line by the time they get to Daytona in September.
Garrett (@dic_banjo9): Yes, I think they all make it. I think that Penske will suffer from the departure of Brad Keselowski, but the damage will be minimal. I think Joey Logano will mature in the role of senior driver, but he won’t be the top performer. All eyes will be on Ryan Blaney, and I think he takes a major step scoring multiple victories and being strong heading into a deep playoff run. I think you’re looking at a lock in the Rookie of the Year battle with Cindric, he’s got all the talent in the world to be a top-level Cup Series driver, and his strength at road courses will be the key to his season.
Gi (@basicallygi): Based on the performances that Team Penske has showcased the last few years, the short answer to this question is yes. However, the factor here that could comprise a repeat performance of the years prior, will be the same to all other teams: the Next Gen Car. Although I do have faith, based on the pure talent of Team Penske’s drivers, it really all boils down to how fast the team gas a grip on the new car. If they are able to figure out the ins and outs of the new vehicle, then I have no doubt that Team Penske will replicate its past success as an organization.
Francisco (@cisco_1213): I do think all the Penske cars will make the playoffs. Joey Logano in the #22 is always consistent enough to score a win, and in the unlikely situation he doesn’t win, I’m confident the Penske equipment will be quick enough to allow the talented Logano to score as many points as needed to lock himself into the playoffs. Ryan Blaney in the #12 has shown himself to be fast enough to consistently be upfront, and last year being his best statistical season is a good enough reason to see why he can easily make the playoffs. Austin Cindric in the #2, though with only seven NASCAR Cup Series starts, has proven he is extremely ready for a full-time Cup career. The 2020 Xfinity Series champion and 2021 runner-up has already scored a top ten finish, ninth place after the 2021 Verizon 200 at the Brickyard. He seemed to be a contender for the win at Road America, before suffering from a mechanical issue. I’m sure even if the Penske rookie doesn’t score his first win, he will make it into the playoffs based on points.
Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn): Combining Team Penske’s 2021 stats with their performance at the Busch Light Clash, it is clear to me that all three drivers will have no problem reaching the playoffs in 2022. As Taylor mentioned, Joey Logano has a streak going of reaching Championship 4 in every even-numbered year, and after his win at the Coliseum this past weekend, I have no reason to believe he won’t continue that streak in 2022. As for Ryan Blaney, he’s riding a hot streak like no other into the season by coming off a career-best 2021. After reaching the Round of 8 in 2021, he’s made it clear that he’s capable of contending against the best. I have no doubt that he’ll be able to do the same this year. Turning to rookie Austin Cindric, he had a bit of an up and down weekend at the Clash. While he looked strong in the long-run, he was turned multiple times which kept him from reaching the main event. However, after a 2020 Xfinity Championship and a top-ten in the Verizon 200 in 2021, I think he’ll be able to squeeze his way into the playoffs via points.
What do you expect from Austin Cindric? Will he get his first win as a rookie?
Walker (@Walker_Skeeter): Cindric’s steady improvement in Xfinity has really impressed me, and I think he’ll probably outperform some of the recent crops of rookies who have mostly struggled in their debut seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him notch a win or two, particularly on one of the road courses. I imagine he’ll make the playoffs, but I wouldn’t imagine he’ll progress beyond the Round of 16. Still, even making the playoffs as a rookie would be quite an accomplishment, and I think he’ll get it done.
Taylor (@Mashtaylor22): I expect Cindric to make the playoffs plain and simple. He has proven that he can make the playoffs considering he has made the playoffs every year since he raced in the truck series. Even when he was doing part-time in the between the 60 and the 22 car he still made the playoffs. He has proven year in and year out that he deserves a top ride, not because of who his dad is, but his talent and ability to win and be one of the best in the Xfinity series. I believe that he will get a win his rookie season because I believe he would have won Road America has he not have had an issue with his car.
Phil (@philenespanol)- We very well could see Austin win his first race this season, but I could see it happening well before the road course portion of the schedule. He’s been good at any type of track the last few seasons but strategy and breaks will have to fall his way. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened at Richmond or even Talladega.
Garrett (@dic_banjo9): Again, Cindric is very talented, and I believe that he will win at least one, if not two of the road courses scheduled for the 2022 season. I think you really need to watch for him to get the win at COTA, Watkins Glen, and Road America. He probably would’ve finished at least runner up to Chase Elliott at Road America and he was in the mix early at COTA, which leads me to Watkins Glen. Cindric has a win at the Glen in 2019 in the Xfinity Series and last season he was in contention there as well. I think he makes the playoffs but makes an early exit in the Round of 16.
Gi (@basicallygi): I believe that Austin Cindric has the potential to be the most successful rookie driver we have seen in years. He proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with in his time in the Xfinity Series, starting off slow, yet ultimately becoming one of the most dominant drivers. If he carries this momentum over into his first cup season, he has all the poise to replicate his Xfinity Series success into his Cup career. I believe that he will more than likely garner at least one, and based on his extremely well-done performances at road courses in the past I will make the safe assumption that if he is to get a win it will be at a road course. If I had to pick a road course in particular I would say it is a toss-up between Road America and COTA.
Francisco (@cisco_1213): Cindric is very talented and capable of performing upfront in a Cup car with very little experience. Though many think he’s some “silver spoon” kid, being the son of Team Penske President Tim Cindric. But over the years he has proven he deserves a ride in the competitive Penske Fords. He has excelled at road courses, as demonstrated when he led ahead of current road course star Chase Elliott at Road America, and has won many road course races in the lower ranks. I expect him to get his first win, and if not he’ll be very close to winning, given the car, his talent, and the many road courses on the 2022 Cup schedule.
Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn): I have no doubts that Austin Cindric will be a strong contender in 2022. While I’m not 100% confident he can pull off a win in his rookie season, I do think that he’ll find himself near the front pretty consistently. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win multiple stages, and as mentioned above, I think he’ll be able to make the playoffs on points. Additionally, he’s proven to be very successful in an Xfinity car which many have said is a bit similar to the Next Gen car. I think this will put him a step ahead of his veteran competitors and make him feel more experienced behind the wheel. It will be a tight battle between him and (somewhat) teammate Harrison Burton for Rookie of the Year honors, and I honestly can’t pick who will pull away with it just yet.
Will Ryan Blaney be able to build on the momentum of his multi-win 2021?
Walker (@Walker_Skeeter): I don’t know if I’d say I expect him to “build” on it, but I imagine he’ll be able to replicate it. He’s one of those guys that, to me, seems to be right on the fringe of being one of the elite talents, but just isn’t quite there. I’d expect him to pick up three or four wins and make a Round of 8 appearances, but I would be surprised if he goes further than that.
Taylor (@Mashtaylor22): I believe that if he does not have bad luck week in and week out that he could definitely build on his success last season. I believe he could come back better this year and get more wins this season but I do not think he makes the final four this season.
Phil (@philenespanol)- Blaney will remain consistent as normal. Strong on the plate tracks, good on the intermediates. I wouldn’t expect over five wins, but two-three is a good expectation especially with a new car & crew chief.
Garrett (@dic_banjo9): Blaney will be the top performer for the team this season. I think he’s the best driver in the series that doesn’t drive for HMS or JGR. He made a huge leap last year and I honestly thought he had the momentum to make a run at the title, but no one was going to stop Kyle Larson. I think Blaney has another nice year, wins four times, and makes it to the Round of 8, barely missing out on the Championship Four.
Gi (@basicallygi): Ryan Blaney proved all his critics wrong last season, by finally getting more than a single win in a season. I do believe that his three wins from last season will provide him with enough momentum to be the best performing driver on Team Penske as well as help him replicate his success of the season prior. What it really boils down to for Blaney, is that he has a new crew chief, so depending on his relationship with his new crew chief, his season could go either way.
Francisco (@cisco_1213): Being as talented as he is, Ryan Blaney is no doubt going to contender most every week. Since his rookie season, he has improved significantly, last year getting a career-high three wins. There is no doubt in my mind that Blaney will at least be able to match that success, and might even have the opportunity to have even greater success.
Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn): I absolutely think that Ryan Blaney will continue his strong showings. Coming off his best season in the Cup Series, I think that he’s gained confidence in himself that he may not have had in the past. While his results at the Clash weren’t what he was hoping for, his strong showing in the heat races proved vintage Ryan Blaney. I think we’ll see him up at the front multiple times with many of those finishes ending with another trophy.
As the senior driver of the organization, what do you expect from Joey Logano in terms of leadership on and off-track?
Walker (@Walker_Skeeter): It feels like Joey has been around forever, so every time I see that he’s only 32 I just get taken aback a bit! Anyway, I have no idea what kind of a leader Joey Logano is in the “conventional” sense, but I do expect him to lead the team from a performance standpoint. Say what you will about him, he’s proven that he is one of the elite drivers in the sport right now, and with Keselowski no longer around, I’d expect more team resources to go Logano’s way. I expect him to be right there contending for another championship at the end of the year.
Taylor (@Mashtaylor22): I expect Joey to mentor Cindric, Blaney, and even Harrison. He should be able to give them information that he wished he would have known and, tips to get better since they will be the future of NASCAR. I also expect him to be the best driver on the team since Brad K left he will be the best on the team. I know that Joey will represent Team Penske and The Captain well on and off the track.
Phil (@philenespanol)- Logano is in this weird position where he’s still young, but is now gonna be expected to bring along two relative youngsters in the same way he had a Tony Stewart or Brad to show him the ropes. So he’s learned from two people that have been in his position before. I expect him to teach them the “Penske Way” on and off the track.
Garrett (@dic_banjo9): I don’t see much of a difference in the coming season for him as compared to last season. I think he gets two wins, makes it to the Round of 8. The most interesting thing will be watching how Logano acts as the senior driver of the organization. He is in his prime, which could pay off in a big way, if Logano can mature and make fewer enemies on the track. Off-track I think he’ll be a consummate professional and be a good spokesperson for the Captain.
Gi (@basicallygi): I believe that Joey will definitely serve as a teacher to Austin CIndirc in the following season as he has before. Also believe Ryan Blaney will fall into a similar role for the rookie driver on the team, but not to the same degree as Logano.
Francisco (@cisco_1213): 2022 will be Joey Logano’s fourteenth year of full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition. Of course, he started his career relatively early, at only 19, so going into this season he will be 31, turning 32, which is where most drivers reach their prime. I do think Logano will continue to be a leader in races, and a mentor to his younger teammates, and I do expect him to be a championship contender once again.
Madelyn (@mlbmadelyn): I think Joey has some babysitting (in a good way) to do this year. His teammates – Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton – are 23 and 21, respectively, making them nearly a decade younger than him. We’ve seen him be a leader both on and off the track, and I think he will continue that into 2022. A seasoned and successful veteran, he’s got a lot to teach the youngins who will surely gain from that.
Predict how many wins each Penske driver will have at the end of the season.
Logano – 2 to 3
Garrett (@dic_banjo9): I think Hendrick and JGR continue to stand atop the pile, with Penske just behind. As I’ve said previously I think Ryan Blaney leads the way with four wins on the year. As for Joey Logano, I think he wins twice, I think he’s a solid bet to win on just about any track layout, but I think Pocono and one of the Atlanta races is where we’ll see Logano perform well enough to win. I think Cindric wins at COTA as his lone win on the season, but places in the top five in all of the road course races in 2022.
Francisco (@cisco_1213): Francisco: It is hard to accurately predict any driver’s wins, especially this year with the new car coming into play, becoming a great equalizer, but there are always rough estimates we can make based on that driver’s previous performances. I believe Austin Cindric is going to score at least one race win, likely at one of the road courses on the schedule. His only top ten came at the Indianapolis Road Course, so I feel confident that he will perform well there. At most, I think he will score three wins, though I do not think he can break the record for most wins by a rookie driver, held by Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. As for Ryan Blaney, I think he can easily score another three wins. Ford as a whole had a bad season in 2021, and Blaney led the way, so no doubt he can once again do the same thing, maybe even scoring a couple of more wins than last year. As for Logano, 2021 was rather disappointing, only getting one win at the inaugural Bristol Dirt race. I think 2022 will be an upward season for the veteran, scoring three to four wins this year.
Featured photo from Pat Vallely.