Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Atlanta

Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report

Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway

Race: Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500

Date: February 24, 2019

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No. 2 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski

Start: 19th

Stage 1: 11th

Stage 2: 12th

Finish: 1st

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 325/325

Laps Led: 33

Driver Point Standings (behind first): 6th (-15)

Notes:

Brad Keselowski held off a fast closing Martin Truex Jr. to win the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Keselowski became the all-time winningest driver in Team Penske history with the victory, his 60th overall since joining the organization, surpassing Mark Donohue. The victory was Keselowski’s first of the 2019 season and his second in 11 Cup series races at Atlanta. He also gave Mustang its first victory in the Cup series.

That Keselowski was physically able to compete on Sunday afternoon was an impressive accomplishment. On Saturday afternoon, Keselowski missed much of the final practice session due to flu-like symptoms but was able to make two runs toward the end of the session. Keselowski was able to recover overnight and ran the 500-mile race on Sunday as scheduled.

The driver of the Autotrader Ford Mustang started 19th in the 325-lap race and steadily worked his way through the field during Stage 1. He finished 11th when the segment concluded on lap 85.

During Stage 2, Keselowski continue to climb up the leaderboard. He was up to fifth-place when he made a scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 126 for four tires. But during the stop the jack broke, costing Keselowski precious seconds on pit road and positions on the track. He recovered and was able to finish 12th when the stage ended on lap 170.

Keselowski restarted 13th when the race went green on lap 177.Once again he steadily worked his way through the field and was up to eighth position when the fourth caution slowed the race on lap 223. As the laps ticked away, the balance on the No. 2 Mustang was more free, which translated into more speed. He was third when he made a scheduled four-tire stop under green on lap 270. Four laps later the caution waved in the midst of the green flag cycle of stops. Keselowski was the first car one lap down and received the free pass back onto the lead lap. He pitted for four tires on lap 278 during the caution and restarted third when the race went green.

From there, Keselowski simply drove to the front. He took the lead from Joey Logano on lap 293 and steadily pulled away from the field. But as the race entered its closing laps, Martin Truex Jr. loomed larger and larger in Keselowski’s rearview mirror. Truex Jr. caught Keselowski on the final lap of the race but couldn’t find a way past, with Keselowski beating his rival to the checkered flag by two car lengths (officially measured at .218 seconds).

No. 12 PPG Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney

Start: 26th

Stage 1: 6th

Stage 2: 4th

Finish: 22nd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 324/325

Laps Led: 41

Driver Point Standings (behind leader): 14th (-33)

Notes:

· Ryan Blaney’s strong run in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was spoiled by a couple late race mishaps. The driver of the No. 12 PPG Ford Mustang showed speed throughout the event, including lead the first laps of his Cup Series career in his fourth start at the 1.54-mile speedway.

· Blaney started 26th and quickly made his way to 14th position, prior to the lap 35 competition caution. He reported to crew chief Jeremy Bullins that his Ford Mustang had good initial turn, but was tight on exit. Bullins called for an air pressure adjustment and a piece of tape on the nose to go along with four new Goodyear tires.

· Blaney continued his charge to the front on the restart, making a couple aggressive moves to get himself into the top-10 and eventually knocking on the door of the top-five. Blaney would finish in the sixth position and the end of Stage 1. On lap 88 he pitted for service that included four tires plus an additional air pressure to help with a loose condition.

· Blaney fought his way to fourth early on the restart and spent the majority of the second stage in that position. He continued to report that his Mustang slid the nose in both the center and exit of the corners. The crew continued to work with air pressure adjustments to keep the car turning. Blaney finished fourth when Stage 2 concluded on lap 170.

· Under the second stage break, Blaney pitted on lap 223 and the crew made a slight air pressure adjustment to keep the PPG Ford Mustang snugged up in the center of the turns. Good pit work by the team got Blaney out in the second position for the restart on lap 227.

· On the restart, Blaney grabbed the lead from Kevin Harvick on lap 231 and led the next 41 laps, his first laps led at Atlanta.

· Unfortunately the team’s strong day went bad late as a pit road miscue and late-race tire problem forced extended service for the PPG crew. When the checkered flag waved, Blaney would be scored in the 22nd position.

Quote: “We had an awesome PPG Ford today. Atlanta has been a place I’ve struggled at in the past so to be competitive and lead some laps felt good today. We had a car that could’ve one but late race issues cost us a chance to win that was super disappointing. We’ll move on and get ready for the West Coast swing.”

No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano

Start: 27th

Stage 1: 7th

Stage 2: 6th

Finish: 23rd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 324/325

Laps Led: 22

Driver Point Standings (behind leader): 5th (-12)

Notes:

· Joey Logano started Sunday‘s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 from the 27th starting position for the debut race of the new aerodynamic and engine package at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang. Logano wasted little time, gaining 11 positions in the first eight laps of the race, moving from 27th to 16th. Logano reached the top-10 by the lap 35 competition caution. On the pit stop, the team made an air pressure adjustment, added tape to the nose to correct the loose condition the driver was experiencing in clean air. Unfortunately, Logano was blocked into his pit box and lost several positions on the exchange.

· Through the second half of the first stage, Logano rallied back, picking up all the lost track position and more, moving to the seventh position by the lap 85 stage break, gaining four valuable points. Unfortunately, the team again found themselves blocked in on pit road, dropping to the back portion of the top-20.

· Through the second stage, Logano worked his way forward, with what he described as “probably the best car here” through the opening two stages. The only issue he reported was being slightly free throughout most of the runs, but the fourth run the handling had improved in the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang over the previous run.

· Through the third stage, Logano climbed to the third position, trailing teammate Ryan Blaney in the No. 12 PPG Mustang and the No. 19 of Martin Truex Jr. Logano remained quiet on the radio for the opening laps of the second run of the stage. With 72 laps remaining in the race, Logano relinquished the third position to teammate Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Autotrader Fusion, who had steadily become one of the best cars in the race.

· At lap 272, as the No. 22 team was preparing to pit, the caution flag was displayed for an incident on pit road. The caution came at the perfect time for the Logano as he and the No. 1 were the only cars on the lead lap as the rest of the field had pitted. On the ensuing restart, Logano was able to keep the lead with 41 laps remaining.

· Unfortunately, Logano would have to make an unscheduled pit stop due to loose rear wheels from the previous stop, dropping Logano off the lead lap and in a position to fight for the lucky dog position. Complicating matters, the team had to pit on the white flag lap to ensure all remaining lugnuts were tight.

Quote: “We brought a really fast Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang today. We won the track position battle all day after getting blocked in on the first two stops. We were really strong on the long run, could pass cars and put ourselves in position to win. That part gives me confidence in what we prepared in the off-season on this new engine and aero package. Unfortunately, the loose wheel ended the day we should have had.”

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