Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Richmond

Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Richmond Raceway
Race: Federated Auto Parts 400
Date: September 21, 2019

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No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 1st
Stage 1: 3rd
Stage 2: 4th
Finish: 4th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 400/400
Laps Led: 89
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 4th (-35)

Notes:

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Brad Keselowski scored a fourth-place finish in the Federated Auto Parts 400 Saturday night at Richmond Raceway. Keselowski claimed his 11th top-five finish of the season. He collected his fifth top-five in 21 starts at Richmond but his first since the 2017 spring race. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford is fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 35 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. and 11 points behind third-place Kyle Busch.

Keselowski kicked off the weekend by winning the pole position for the 400-lap, 300-mile race during qualifying on Friday evening. One of the final cars to make a run, Keselowski ripped off a lap of 21.229 seconds, 127.185 mph to capture his third pole of the 2019 season (New Hampshire and Michigan were the others). He won his second pole in 21 starts at Richmond and the 17th in 369 career Cup Series starts.

Keselowski led the first 53 laps of the race before scoring a third-place finish when Stage 1 ended on lap 100. He told crew chief Paul Wolfe that they were close on the balance of the No. 2 Mustang. Wolfe made the call for four tires and an air pressure adjustment during the stage caution on lap 104 and restarted third when the race went green on lap 108.

The third caution on lap 113 saw Keselowski make a stop for four tires. He restarted 14th and steadily began working his way through traffic after the race went green on lap 116. He returned to the top-10 on lap 128 then passed Kevin Harvick on lap 192 to move up to fifth when Stage 2 ended on lap 200. Keselowski said his Mustang was freer on exit during this run. Wolfe made a four-tire change with no adjustments on lap 204 and Keselowski restarted fourth on lap 209.

Keselowski was running fourth when the fourth caution on lap 244 set up a round of pit stops for the leaders under yellow. The No. 2 crew made a lightening quick stop for four tires, giving their driver the lead on lap 246. Keselowski led the next 36 laps before Martin Truex Jr. passed him on lap 282. Keselowski was running fourth and preparing to make a scheduled stop when the fifth and final caution slowed the pace on lap 316. He came to pit road one lap later for four tires and restarted fourth on lap 321, 79 laps from the finish. Keselowski held firm the final 22 laps to claim his top-five finish.

Quotes: “We threw everything we had at them. We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it. We led eighty-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win.”

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No. 12 Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 15th
Stage 1: 17th
Stage 2: 14th
Finish: 17th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 399/400
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 10th (-82)

Notes:

Ryan Blaney started 15th and finished 18th in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Richmond Raceway. The driver of the Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang remains 10th in the Cup Series standings 82 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. and eight points above the Playoff cutline.

Stage 1 ran caution-free and Blaney would run around 15th-place for most of the 100-lap opening stage. He would report to crew chief Jeremy Bullins that the balance of the Menards/Richmond Ford was loose on entry, tight center and loose off. Blaney would fall back to 17th position where he would eventually finish Stage 1. After being lapped by race leader Martin Truex Jr., he would receive the free pass under the stage break. Blaney would come to pit road where Bullins would opt for an air pressure adjustment and fresh tires.

Stage 2 began on lap 108 with Blaney restarting 18th. A caution would waive five laps later for a multi-car incident on lap 113. The Menards team would decide to the take the opportunity for new tires.

The new tires helped the Menards/Richmond Ford take off and Blaney drove his way to 14th-place by lap 160. He would report the air pressure on the first stop helped his center turn but he was still loose on entry and exit. He would finish Stage 2 in the 14th position.

Under the final stage break Blaney would come to pit road on lap 204 for four tires and another air pressure adjustment along with wedge. Another strong pit stop by the Menards crew gained Blaney two spots up to 13th for the restart. When racing resumed, Blaney reported the same tight handling characteristics, although they had made improvements on his entry from earlier in the race.

A caution on lap 244 would see the leaders return to pit. The Menards crew pitted for tires and an air pressure adjustment. Strong pit service saw Blaney gain two spots on pit road from 14th to 12th on lap 245.

A caution on lap 316 would see the leaders make their final pit stop of the night. The Menards crew would make a wedge and air pressure adjustment to go along with four tires. Unfortunately, Blaney would have to come back down pit road to tighten loose left side lug nuts. Restarting 18th, Blaney would try to make up spots lost, but would settle for an 17th-place finish.

Quote: “Overall it was a better night than what we had here, for sure. We were running close to the 15th and that’s about where we were going finish, but we had to come back in for a loose wheel there. By the time you get to the cars you’re racing your tires are wore out. We kind of salvaged a decent run at it here. We’re a little bit to the good on points, so hopefully we can have a solid race next week.”

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No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 28th
Stage 1: 23rd
Stage 2: 19th
Finish: 11th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 400/400
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 6th (-82)

Notes:

Joey Logano started 28th and battled handling conditions throughout Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, ultimately brining the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang home in the 12th position. Logano is sixth in the series standings entering the first elimination race next week at the Charlotte ROVAL.

After starting 28th, Logano gained five spots in the opening 10 laps, reporting the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang was tight. As the opening run progressed, the handling continued to get tighter while Logano worked to maintain. Unfortunately, Logano would fall a lap down on lap 72, while running in the 20th position. He finished the first stage a lap down and in the 24th position.

A quick caution at the beginning of Stage 2 would secure the free pass for Logano, putting the Shell-Pennzoil Ford back on the lead lap. Under the caution, the team elected to pit again for four tires and a trackbar adjustment. After the adjustments, Logano reported the car took off better, but was still progressing to the tight side. The condition continued to intensify resulting in Logano dropping off the lead lap once again.
A caution flag on lap 243 would secure the free pass for the second time of the night. The team elected to make additional air pressure adjustments, still looking to give Logano more turn and help keep the front tires turning longer into the run.

With all the adjustments made, Logano began working his way forward, reaching the 13th position by lap 285. The driver of the Shell-Pennzoil Ford reported the car was much better, but still needed a little more front turn. A caution flag on lap 315 would bring the team back to pit road to make an additional trackbar and air pressure adjustment.

Logano would restart in the 13th position. He quickly moved up to 12th where he’d run for most of the run, reporting the Shell-Pennzoil Ford was slightly free on corner exit. The race would remain green to completion, with Logano bringing the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang home in the 12th position.

Quote: “It was a rough night. We missed it at the start. I don’t know where. We were decent in practice and on the long run I thought we were pretty good, and we go to qualify, and we were tight, and then we start the race and we’re really tight. We put so many rounds and air-pressure and we hit everything we could hit to try to get the tight out of it. We got better and we went from not being able to stay on the lead lap and getting a couple lucky dogs and then towards the end we got semi-competitive. I wouldn’t say we were good, but a little closer to where we need to be. Overall, I think we had a 50-point cushion, I believe, over the cutline, so that’s a nice feeling going into the ROVAL. Maybe we can be a little more aggressive and try to get something there.”

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