Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Richmond

Track:                Richmond Raceway
Race:                 Toyota Owners 400
Date:                 April 13, 2019
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No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 8th
Stage 1: 6th
Stage 2: 4th
Finish: 7th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 400/400
Laps Led: 40
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-87)
Notes:
Brad Keselowski bounced back from two straight disappointing races with a seventh-place finish in the Toyota Owners 400 Saturday night at Richmond Raceway. Keselowski grabbed his fifth top-10 this season and his 10th in 20 starts at Richmond. The driver of the Alliance Truck Parts Ford remains fifth in the MENCS driver standings, 87 points behind the leader.
Keselowski started eighth in the 400-lap race and battled a loose-handling Mustang throughout Stage 1. The team steadily improved the balance during the opening segment with Keselowski scoring a sixth-place finish when the stage concluded on lap 100. He pitted during the stage caution for four tires and adjustments and restarted sixth on lap 111.
Keselowski ran in fourth position throughout much of Stage 2. He pitted during the third caution on lap 131 for four tires and a track bar adjustment to help tighten up his loose condition. He restarted eighth on lap 135 but climbed back to fourth-place just two laps later. He remained in fourth over the next 63 laps until Stage 2 concluded on lap 200. Keselowski told crew chief Paul Wolfe that he needed a more forward drive off the corners and pitted for four tires on lap 205. The Alliance Truck Parts pit crew held serve during the round of stops and Keselowski restarted fourth on lap 211.
The restart was beneficial to Keselowski. He picked off third position on lap 212 and held the position until the fifth caution set up a round of stops on lap 246. The No. 2 crew once again did a solid job, giving Keselowski four tires, a wedge adjustment and returning him to the track in third position for the restart on lap 252.
Once again Keselowski used a good restart to his advantage. He grabbed second position shortly after the race went green and took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. on lap 266. But as the laps ticked away, the No. 2 Ford Mustang grew tighter and tighter. On lap 294, Truex grabbed the lead from Keselowski and on lap 312 Clint Bowyer slipped by, dropped him to third. As a cycle of green flag stops began, Keselowski moved back into the lead on lap 319 before he pitted on lap 322, handing the lead back to Truex.
Neither the final pit sequence nor the long green flag run to end the race worked to the advantage of Keselowski and the Alliance Truck Parts team. He returned to the track ninth when the cycled was completed. He was able to work his way back to up to sixth by lap 336 but couldn’t get closer to the front. The No. 2 Mustang was lighting fast on the short run but unfortunately, the race ended with a 148 lap green flag run. On lap 392, Austin Dillon passed Keselowski for sixth, but he held off Kyle Busch in the closing laps to claim a seventh-place finish.
Quote: “We had a lot of short run speed in our Alliance Truck Parts Ford but unfortunately it came down to long runs at the end. Overall, it wasn’t a bad day. We needed the race to come to us with short runs at the end and it didn’t. I like short tracks and I think they’re a lot of fun. It is hard to pass, but that’s racing and that is how it’s going to be.”
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No. 12 MoneyLion Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 22nd
Stage 1: 22nd
Stage 2: 24th
Finish: 25th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 398/400
Laps Led: 0
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 9th (-123)
Notes:
·        Richmond Raceway proved to be a headache for Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 MoneyLion Ford Mustang team. An ill-handling No. 12 Mustang plus a pit road penalty late in the race led to a 25th-place finish for Blaney on a frustrating Saturday night.
·        Blaney started 22nd in the 400-lap race at the .75 mile Virginia short track. He reported the balance on his Ford Mustang was loose on entry, tight center and loose off the corners. The first round of pit service came during a competition caution on lap 42. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the call for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Following the restart in lap 46, Blaney soon reported to his team the changes actually made his car drive worse. Despite the challenges, Blaney remained on the lead lap and was credited with a 22nd-place when Stage 1 concluded on lap 100.
·        In Stage 2, Bullins and Blaney opted to reverse course on the previous adjustments. The driver of the MoneyLion Ford reported the changes didn’t allow him to be as aggressive on throttle as his other competitors. A stop under caution on lap 131 pit stop allowed the MoneyLion team to change four tires plus make wedge and air pressure adjustments but those changes didn’t make a huge difference. To make matters worse, Blaney made contact with the wall in the closing laps of Stage 2, leaving the young driver 24th in the rundown when the segment concluded on lap 200. But as the first car one lap down, Blaney received the free pass back onto the lead lap during the stage caution.
·        Blaney continued to wrestle an ill-handling race car during the final segment of the race. A pit stop during the fifth and final caution on lap 246 saw the crew put a rubber in the left rear spring. His final stop came under green on lap 311, but he was penalized for a commitment line violation. Blaney was officially credited with a 25th-place finish in the final rundown and now sits ninth in the Cup Series standings.
Quote: “Richmond continues to be a challenge. We just seem to be fighting something every time we race here. I’m looking forward to getting to Talladega in two weeks. Maybe we can figuring this place out in the fall.”
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No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start:  3rd
Stage 1: 2nd
Stage 2: 1st – (Fourth Stage Win of 2019)
Finish: 2nd
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 400/400
Laps Led: 52
Point Standings (behind first): 2nd (-20)
Notes:
·        Joey Logano started third in Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang. Early in the first run, Logano reported the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang was tight in the corners and free on exit. During the competition caution at lap 40, crew chief Todd Gordon made an air pressure adjustment to give Logano the exit and entry security he needed to move forward.
·        After the stop, Logano settled into the second position, logging laps as towards the completion of Stage 1. On lap 77, Logano reported he had more entry security than the previous run, and proved it by consistently running the fastest laps on the track while chasing race leader Kyle Busch. But as the opening segment of the race drew to a close, Logano reported he was too tight in traffic, which ultimately forced the driver of the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to settle for second-place when Stage 1 concluded on lap 100.
·        Logano continued to battle a tight Ford Mustang during the opening laps of the second stage. The third caution on lap 129 set up a round of pit stops under yellow. The No. 22 team made a four-tire stop and an air pressure adjustment in an effort to enable Logano to turn better in the center of the corners.
·        Logano passed Martin Truex Jr. for the lead on lap 195 and held on over the next five laps to claim his fourth stage win of the 2019 season. On the stage ending pit stop, the team elected to make a small air pressure adjustment when they pitted during the stage caution on lap 205.  Excellent pit work kept Logano in the lead continued to lead throughout the opening laps of the third stage until the fifth and final caution slowed the pace on lap 244. All the leaders pitted on lap 246 with Logano restarting second when the race went green on lap 252.
·        Unfortunately, the tight handling condition persisted for Logano. The end result was the driver of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford dropping back to the fourth position – the first time he ran lower than third. A green flag pit stop on lap 318 allowed the team to change four tires and make adjustments in an effort to improve the handling characteristics of the No. 22 Mustang.
·        The final 82 laps were run under green, which worked to Logano’s advantage. His long-run speed rallied him from outside the top-five into a nail-biting battle with Truex for the victory. Logano caught Truex on the final lap of the race but simply didn’t have enough time to mount a serious challenge to his rival.
·        Logano’s stellar night moved him into the second position in the MENCS driver standings, 20 points behind the leader.
Quote: “We had a Ford Mustang that was capable of winning for the third week straight and we didn’t win and that’s frustrating. We need to clean up some mistakes on our end. We lost the lead there on a pit stop and we’ve got to get faster there. We lost control of the race at that point and fell back to third but had a decent green-flag cycle where we reeled in the 19 (Truex) and the 14 (Clint Bowyer). I was watching them race and thought that if I was just patient and saved my tires, I might have a chance. I saw them coming off the corner sideways every time. I was just a couple laps late getting there. I was able to get to Truex but it just wasn’t enough. I just ran out of time. I needed a few more laps.”

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