Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Las Vegas

Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Race: South Point Casino 400
Date: September 16, 2019
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No. 2 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 18th
Stage 1: 18th
Stage 2: 13th
Finish: 3rd
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 267/26
Laps Led: 0
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-24)

Notes:

Brad Keselowski overcame a rough start to post a third-place finish in the South Point 400 Sunday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Keselowski struggled mightily early in the 267-lap event but rallied in the second half of the event to score his 10th top-five finish of the 2019 season. The driver of the Autotrader Ford moves up to fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 24 behind leader Martin Truex Jr. and five behind fourth-place Kyle Busch. He claimed his ninth top-10 in 13 starts at Las Vegas including nine consecutive dating back to the 2013 spring race at the 1.5-mile Nevada speedway.

Keselowski started 18th and struggled off Turn 4 early in Stage 1. He pitted under green on lap 42 for four tires and a chassis adjustment. The changes by crew chief Paul Wolfe didn’t improve the balance on the No. 2 Mustang and Keselowski finished 18th when the segment ended on lap 80. Keselowski pitted on lap 83 during the stage caution and for four tires and more adjustments and restarted 20th on lap 86.

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The handling on the No. 2 Ford didn’t improve during Stage 2. By lap 100 Keselowski was still running 20th with a Mustang that was loose on corner entry and tight in the center and on exit. He made a green flag stop on lap 122 and crew chief Paul Wolfe made an air pressure adjustment on the right-rear. The change was considerably better, according to Keselowski, who rallied through traffic to finish 13th when the segment ended on lap 160.

During the stage caution, Wolfe and the Autotrader team pitted twice during the yellow, on laps 164 and 166, for a major wedge and bump stop adjustment. Keselowski restarted in 20th position near the tail end of the field when the race went green on lap 167.

By lap 178 Keselowski said his Mustang was once again quite a handful, now very loose on corner entry although slightly better on corner exit. He dropped back to The third caution on lap 182 gave the team a chance to pit for tires and more adjustments. Good pit work moved Keselowski up to 13th for the restart on lap 185 and was up to ninth position when the fourth and final caution slowed the pace on lap 189. Wolfe kept his driver on the track and Keselowski restarted eighth when the race went green on lap 195.

The driver of the Autotrader Ford used a great restart to move up to fourth position on lap 196. He moved up to third when he made his final stop for four tires on lap 230, 37 laps from the finish and remained there after the cycle of stops was complete with just 17 laps remaining. Try as he might, Keselowski couldn’t reel in eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. but he did hold off Chase Elliott during the closing laps of the race.

Quotes: “We had a bad start tonight but a good finish. We weren’t driving very good at the start. Nothing I was doing was working and we were just kind of bleeding positions. Almost lost laps. The team worked on it really hard there and got us back to a spot where we could kind of almost steal a win. I thought for a minute we might be able to. All in all it was a good day. Not the win we were looking for but a lot of perseverance and a lot to be proud of. We didn’t freak out and everyone kept their head on their shoulders.”

No. 12 PPG Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 23rd
Stage 1: 11th
Stage 2: 8th
Finish: 5th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 267/267
Laps Led: 1
Point Standings (behind first): 10th (-43)

Notes:

Ryan Blaney started 23rd and finished fifth in Sunday night’s South Point 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the PPG Ford Mustang led a lap on the day and gained two positions in the points standings to 10th, -43 points behind points leader Martin Truex Jr. His eighth top-five of season ties a career-best for the High Point, N.C. native.

At the drop of the green flag, Blaney jumped to 20th from his 23rd starting position. He reported early that the PPG Ford was very tight and chattering the front tires. On lap 42, after moving as high as 18th, crew chief Jeremy Bullins called the No. 12 Ford Mustang to the pits for four tires along with a wedge and air pressure adjustment under green. The adjustment would prove to the be the right move and Blaney drove his way up to 11th where he would finish Stage 1.

Under the stage break, Blaney would return to pit road where Bullins would opt for a slight air pressure adjustment to complement the first pit stop adjustments. Strong pit service by the PPG crew gained Blaney three sports when racing resumed on lap 87.

Shortly after the restart Blaney would gain a spot up to seventh but would soon report the PPG Ford had gone back to the very tight side. He would make his next round of pit service again under green on lap 123, where the PPG crew would take four tires, along with an air pressure adjustment. The stage ran without caution and Blaney would come home eighth in Stage 2.

Under the final stage break Blaney would come to pit road on lap 165 for four tires and another air pressure adjustment. Another strong pit stop by the PPG crew gained Blaney a spot up to seventh for the restart. When racing resumed, Blaney reported the same tight handling characteristics, although they had made improvements from when the race began.

A caution on lap 181 would see strategy begin to come into play. The PPG crew pitted for right side tires and an air pressure adjustment. The move would see Blaney restart second alongside Denny Hamlin when racing resumed on lap 185. The two would go side-by-lap for several laps until third-place Kevin Harvick managed to pass both drivers on lap 187.

Following a caution on lap 189, the final 72 laps of the event ran green. Blaney would eventually battle with teammate Brad Keselowski for the third position, with Keselowski prevailing. Blaney would make his final stop on lap 230, taking four tires and air pressure adjustment. He would fight hard to keep fourth, but a slower lap traffic allowed Chase Elliott to pass him late and Blaney would bring home a fifth-place finish. This marked his third top-five in the last four races at the 1.5-mile speedway.

Quote: “It was a long night for sure. We didn’t start very good but took big swings at it. We were on both the tight side and loose side. We couldn’t take off very fast. Other guys would take off really fast. At the end of a run we were really fast up by the wall, but we just lost too much ground and then I just got tight there at the end.”

No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 22nd
Stage 1: 1st
Stage 2: 2nd
Finish: 9th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 267/267
Laps Led: 105
Point Standings (behind first): 3rd (-7)

Notes:

Joey Logano flashed brilliant speed while showing grit and determination in Sunday evening’s South Point Casino 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading a race high 105 laps, scoring 19 stage points and one playoff point for the Stage 1 win in route to a ninth place finish in the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang. Logano proved to be the class of the field from the drop of the green flag until damage in the final stage put a damper on the night fo the defending series champion.

After starting in the 22nd position, Logano stormed forward with the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang, reaching the eighth position before lap 10 around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Logano remained quiet on the radio, letting spotter TJ Majors guide his forward progress. By lap 23, Logano had moved into the top-five, then to the third position by lap 25.

On lap 34, Logano claimed the lead with the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford and slowly began stretching out a lead as green flag pit stops approached. When all stops were complete, Logano cycled back to the lead as the end of the first stage approached. The driver of the Pennzoil Ford Mustang reported he was a bit freer on the second run of the race, continuing to run the fastest lap times on the track. Logano claimed the first stage by over six seconds on second place running Kevin Harvick.

Through the opening laps of the second stage, Logano continued to lead, reporting the Pennzoil Ford Mustang was still slightly loose through both corners, slightly worse in turns 3 and 4. Logano pitted from the lead at lap 123 for four tires and fuel with the team making only slight air pressure adjustments for the loose condition. Logano continued to lead until three laps remaining in the second stage when he got pinned behind two slower cars and relinquished the lead, finishing second in the stage.

On the stage ending stop, the 22 team made a four tire stop, adding tape to the nose and another slight air pressure adjustment. Under caution at lap 182, the team elected to pit again, taking four tires while others took two, cycling them back to the seventh position. Unfortunately, Logano suffered damage on the ensuing restart and had to come to pit road for extensive repairs. After the repairs, Logano restarted the race deep in the field but slowly worked his way forward, reaching the 13th position by lap 215.

Logano reported the Pennzoil Ford had swung to the tight side, prompting the team to pit early in the window at lap 230 for a four tire stop and trackbar adjustment. Logano would use the adjustments to rally back into the top-10, finishing ninth at the checkered flag. The solid day earning stage points and a stage win, coupled with the ninth place finish has Logano third in the series standings, trailing leader Martin Truex Jr as the series heads to Richmond Raceway next Saturday night.

Quote: “Our car was fast. We were definitely capable of winning this thing, no doubt. We showed that. That is positive. I like that part. We scored a lot of points which is also positive. I don’t know where we are in the standings yet but the stages and the finish gives us some points to hopefully give us a little cushion over the next couple races but we have to still be smart to make it to the next round. If we didn’t have a wrecked car we would have had a shot at winning. We were really good at the beginning of the race. We drove all the way to the lead and led a bunch of laps. We can be proud of that. We won’t let our heads get down on this. It is still a strong day.”

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