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NASCAR Cup Series Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Recap - Martinsville

Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Recap – Martinsville

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Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report

Track:                Martinsville Speedway
Race:                 STP 500
Date:                 March 24, 2019

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No. 2 REESE/Draw-Tite Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 3rd
Stage 1: 1st
Stage 2: 1st
Finish: 1st
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 446
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-37)

Notes:

Brad Keselowski delivered the most dominating performances of his NASCAR career Sunday afternoon on the way to winning the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Keselowski led twice for 446 of 500 laps and crossed the finish line .594 seconds ahead of Chase Elliott. The win was Keselowski’s second of the 2019 season and second in 19 races at Martinsville. The driver of the REESE/Draw-Tire Ford claimed his fourth top-five finish in six races this season. He is fifth in MENCS driver standings, 37 points behind the leader.

Keselowski started third in the 500-lap race and grabbed the lead from teammate Joey Logano on lap 6.  He led the next 319 laps, winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 – his first stage wins of the 2019 season. The only time Keselowski lost the lead was on lap 325 when Chase Elliott passed him.

He was running second when the sixth caution slowed the pace on lap 373. A round of pit stops for the leaders followed one lap later, and excellent pit work by the REESE/Draw-Tite team gave Keselowski the lead, which he never relinquished.

But as the race entered its final stretch, Elliott and others in the top-five had one more chance.
The seventh and final caution waved on lap 447 setting up one final round of pit stops on lap 448.  Once again the No. 2 crew was flawless on pit lane, keeping their driver in the lead.  Keselowski survived the restart on lap 455 and steadily inched away from Elliott over the stretch run to the checkered flag, beating his rival to the checkered flag by two car lengths (officially measured at .594 seconds).

The No. 2 REESE/Draw-Tire pit crew pitched the equivalent of a perfect game Sunday afternoon at Martinsville.  They made six pit stops during the 500-lap race and kept Keselowski in the lead after every visit to the pit lane.

Quote: “The Draw-Tite Ford Mustang was really strong. It’s just a great day for our team, awesome execution on pit road and big credit to Doug Yates and all the engine guys.  Today was just one of those days you dream of as a race car driver. Chase Elliott was really strong. He passed me with about 200 to go and I watched him and studied him and knew what I had to do to hold him off and we were able to pull it off that last run.”

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No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 18th
Stage 1: 5th
Stage 2: 2nd
Finish: 4th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 0
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 8th (-70)

Notes:

·        Ryan Blaney capped-off another solid weekend with a fourth-place finish in Sunday’s Cup Series race at the Martinsville Speedway. Driving the No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford Mustang, the High Point, N.C. native claimed his second top-five at the .526-mile Virginia speedway and third consecutive top-five of 2019. He gained two positions in the MENCS driver standings, moving up to eighth-place, 70 points behind the leader.

·        Blaney started 18th in the 500-lap event and drove his way inside the top-10 within the first 50 laps of the race. He reported the handling of his Ford Mustang was pretty good, especially on entry to the turns and through the center.

·        The first round of pit stops came under caution on lap 69. Blaney and crew chief Jeremy Bullins decided on four tires, fuel and no adjustments to see if the handling would remain consistent. When racing resumed, the driver of the No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford continued to move forward, scoring a fifth-place finish when Stage 1 concluded on lap 130. Solid service by the No. 12 pit crew during the stage caution moved Blaney up to fourth position when the race went green on lap 141.

·        Stage 2 went green from start to finish and Blaney took full advantage of the long green-flag run. He muscled his way into the top-three, passing both Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott before the segment concluded on lap 260. Blaney was reeling in race leader and Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, but lapped traffic prevented a serious challenge, forcing him to settle for second-place.

·        Blaney, Bullins and the No. 12 crew make very slight air pressure adjustments throughout the third and final stage of the race. The No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford got stronger as the race went along, and the long stretches of green flag racing worked to his advantage. A pit stop on lap 316 under the sixth caution saw the Menards/Libman crew go back on a previous small air pressure adjustment that made the car too tight on the short run.

·        Falling back as far as sixth on pit road, Blaney drove his way back into the top-four positions with less than 100 laps to go. His final pit stop came under the seventh and final caution on lap 448. Bullins made the call to add additional air pressure to the right side tires on the No. 12 Ford Mustang.

·        Unfortunately, the adjustment didn’t quite work out. The race went green on lap 455 and Blaney reported his car was the tightest it had been all day. As the remaining laps continued to trickle away, the No. 12 Mustang gradually began to come perform better but it was too late to mount a serious challenge for the win, leaving him with a fourth-place finish.

Quote: “I needed long runs. I thought a 120-lap run to the finish was going to be perfect. The last three weeks have been pretty smooth for us.  We just have to keep having weekends like this and maybe we’ll be able to win one of these things. Our Menards/Libman Ford was just starting to come to us in the last stage when the caution came out. I just needed more than 50 laps.”

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No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start:  1st
Stage 1: 7th
Stage 2: 10th
Finish: 19th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 5
Point Standings (behind first): 4th (-28)

Notes:

·        Joey Logano started Sunday’s STP 500 from the pole position in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang.  Logano led the opening five laps before relinquishing the lead to teammate Brad Keselowski while battling a Mustang that lacked entry security and center turn. Logano would drop outside the top-five, running as low as sixth before a caution on lap 65. On the ensuing round of pit stops on lap 67, the No. 22 team made a four-tire stop plus air pressure adjustments.

·        Despite the adjustment, Logano continued to battle a lack of rear security and the ability to turn, causing him to slip back to seventh position. When Stage 1 concluded on lap 130, Logano reported that he was in need of a big adjustment. The team elected to give him two rounds of wedge in the right rear of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford during a round of pit stops under the stage caution on lap 134.

·        When the race went back green, Logano reported that the wedge adjustment fixed the corner entry security issue, but that he still needed more help rotating the center, especially late in the run. He finished 10th when Stage 2 concluded on lap 260 and the team made a major chassis adjustment during the stage caution on lap 265. Crew chief Todd Gordon changed four tires and added a spring rubber to right-rear of the No. 22 Ford Mustang.

·        The adjustments helped the Shell-Pennzoil Ford on the short run. Logano was able to run laps comparable to race leader Brad Keselowski. A caution flag at lap 313 brought the leaders to pit road for service one lap later. Logano needed better center-turn, plus help with being too loose on exit. The team made an air pressure adjustment along with four fresh tires, sending Logano out in eighth position when the race went green on lap 319.

·        But later in the run Logano began to drop back in the running order. He was running in 15th position before the sixth caution brought the leaders to pit road on lap 374 for another round of stops. Once again the team made major changes (plus repairs to the right-front wheel opening after a minor scrape against the wall). The No. 22 Mustang was still too free on takeoff and grew really tight during the remainder of the run.

·        Logano continued to struggle with the handling on the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford during the third and final stage, with the driver describing the handling as simply too tight during the entire run. He was credited with a 19th-place, finishing outside the top-10 for only the second time in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Quote: “We struggled today finding the balance on our Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. We’d fire off really loose and then the car would just build tight, I never really had a spot in the run where the handling would come to me. It gives us a couple things to work on before we come back here in the fall.”

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