Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Bristol

Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Race: Food City 500
Date: April 7, 2019

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No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 12th
Stage 1: 3rd
Stage 2: 4th
Finish: 18th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 499/500
Laps Led: 40
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-90)

Notes:

A late-race penalty sidetracked Brad Keselowski’s chances for a possible victory Sunday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. Keselowski was running second behind teammate Joey Logano when the 11th and final caution slowed the pace on lap 479. Crew chief Paul Wolfe made the call for right-side tires on lap 481, with Keselowski returning to the track in fifth position for the restart – or so he thought. NASCAR officials ruled that Keselowski lined up incorrectly for the restart, issuing a pass-thru penalty on lap 486. He served the penalty on lap 490, 10 laps from the finish of the 500-lap race. The process cost Keselowski a lap to the leaders and left him with an 18th-place finish.

The bitter turn of events for the Discount Tire team spoiled an otherwise good afternoon. Keselowski started 12th but was running fourth as Stage 1 drew to a close. He pitted on lap 120 during the third caution, but speedy service on the pit lane put him fourth for the restart with two laps left in the opening segment. He finished fourth when Stage 1 concluded on lap 125 and didn’t pit during the stage caution, moving into the lead on lap 130.

The driver of the Discount Tire Ford Mustang led the next 15 laps before settling into second-place behind teammate Joey Logano. Keselowski pitted under caution on lap 215 for four tires and restarted second when the race went green. He drifted back to fourth-place when Stage 2 concluded on lap 250, needing a longer run to run well. Keselowski pitted twice during the stage caution (once for four tires and once for a loose left-front lugs), shuffling him back to 18th for the restart on lap 261.

Fortunately for the Discount Tire team, they got the long run they needed to make up the lost distance. Keselowski powered his way through traffic, climbing into the top-10 by lap 329. He was up to seventh-place when the eighth caution slowed the pace on lap 376. Keselowski got four tires on lap 378, restarted seventh when the race went green on lap 382.

He was seventh when the caution waved on lap 414. Wolfe made the call for right-side tires when the pit lane opened, moving Keselowski up to fourth for the restart on lap 422. He patiently ran second behind Kyle Busch until he grabbed the lead on lap 445, holding the top spot until Logano wrestled it away on lap 470.

The eleventh and final caution of the race set up one last round of stops on lap 481. Keselowski again got right-side tires and appeared to be fifth in line for the restart, but that wasn’t the case. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford did gain one position in the MENCS driver standings, moving up to fifth-place, 90 points behind the leader.

Quote: “Nobody could figure out the lineup. There wasn’t enough communication and it was just a tough deal.”

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No. 12 PPG Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 4th
Stage 1: 7th
Stage 2: 2nd
Finish: 4th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 158 (Most Laps Led)
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 6th (-96)

Notes:

· Ryan Blaney capped-off strong weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway with a fourth-place finish in Sunday’s Food City 500, his first top-five in eight starts at the .533-mile speedway. Blaney led the most laps in the race (three times for 158 laps) and grabbed his fourth top-five finish in the last five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races.

· Blaney started fourth and quickly moved up to second-place during the first 40 laps. He reported the balance of his No. 12 PPG Ford Fusion was loose on entry, center and in the middle of the corners. The first round of pit service came during the second caution on lap 41, with crew chief Jeremy Bullins making the call for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.

· Blaney restarted and grabbed the lead from Erik Jones on lap 59. He led the next 58 laps, until the handling of his PPG Ford began to go away. He relinquished the lead to Clint Bowyer on lap 118, just before prior to the caution coming out on lap 119. Blaney pitted on lap 120 for four tires, fuel and a larger air pressure adjustment to help with his PPG Ford that got too tight in the center of the turns. Several cars chose not to pit during the yellow, opting to remain on-track in hopes of scoring stage points. Blaney restarted near the bottom of the top-10 but used his fresher tires to drive back to seventh when Stage 1 finished on lap 125.

· Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski dominated Stage 2, leading 121 laps. Blaney reported the PPG Ford Fusion lost rear security and slid the nose especially on the bottom lane. Bullins opted to make a larger adjustment during a pit stop under caution on lap 215, making both an air pressure and wedge adjustment. The changes helped Blaney to finish second to teammate Logano when segment ended on lap 250. Quick pit service during the stage caution gave Blaney the lead on lap 256.

· The driver of the PPG Ford Mustang led next 97 laps, but late in the run he radioed his team that he couldn’t get his car to rotate well in the center of the corner. Eventually both Logano and Bowyer found their way around Blaney, shuffling him back to third position. A pit stop under caution on lap 377 saw the No. 12 team make more adjustments to help Blaney turn better in the corners. When the race restarted, the driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang reported for the first time the car started on the splitter. A stop on lap 416 under caution saw the PPG crew go back on the wedge adjustment.

· Blaney would ride in fourth position behind Logano, Keselowski and Kyle Busch, until the final caution of the race came out on lap 479. He made his final stop on lap 481 for four tires. Several cars opted to remain track for the final dash to the finish. Blaney used the fresh tires to claw his way through traffic and back to fourth position when the checkered flag waived.

Quote: “I need to get better as the track rubbers out. Joey (Logano) is really good at it. I thought he had the best car. The track rubbers in and I just need to do something different there. Not a bad day overall for the PPG Ford. We were up there all race and just tried to keep up with the track. The track was really racy today from bottom to top and I thought it put on a really good show.”

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No. 22 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 7th
Stage 1: 4th
Stage 2: 1st – (Third stage win of 2019)
Finish: 3rd
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 146
Point Standings (behind first): 3rd (-35)

Notes:

· Joey Logano started seventh in Sunday’s Food City 500 in the No. 22 Autotrader Ford Mustang. Logano moved inside the top-five by lap 15, setting his sights on the leaders. He reported his Mustang fired-off tight, but then slowly started to build loose as the laps clicked off and rubber accumulated on the concrete half-mile. An early caution on lap 39 allowed Logano to pit for four tires and an air pressure adjustment.

· Logano used the changes to his advantage, moving up to third position, where he ran for the majority of the remaining laps in the first stage. The third caution came out on lap 119, six laps from the finish of the first stage. Most of the leaders pitted, including Logano, who received four tires and an air pressure adjustment to help loosen up the Autotrader Ford Mustang. The green came out with two laps remaining in the opening segment. Logano finished fourth when Stage 1 concluded on lap 125.

· Logano powered into the lead early in Stage 2, grabbing the lead from teammate Brad Keselowski on lap 145, and building up a four-second advantage before reaching lapped traffic with 65 laps to go in the stage. A caution on lap 214 brought the leaders to pit road and Logano’s team would make an air pressure adjustment to help the tight condition. The changes worked and Logano claimed his third stage win of 2019 when the segment concluded on lap 250.

· During the stage break, the No. 22 team pitted and once again made an air pressure adjustment after Logano reported the handling on his No. 22 Mustang had gone to the free side during the run. The Autotrader Ford Mustang restarted second when the race went green on lap 261.

· Just before the eighth caution at lap 376, Logano lost the lead to Clint Bowyer. During the yellow flag, Logano reported that his No. 12 Ford was now tight, so crew chief Todd Gordon called for an air pressure adjustment. Logano lined up third for the restart on lap 382.

· Logano battled teammate Brad Keselowski, claiming the lead on lap 470. The final caution on lap 479 split the strategy among the leaders. The No. 22 team pitted for four tires while others chose to remain on the track or get two. Logano restarted eighth 14 laps from the finish and was able to rally to third-place before the checkered flag. He led 146 laps in his Ford Mustang on the way to his fourth top-five finish of the 2019 season.

Quote: “Right at the end there I thought when we got by the No. 2 (Keselowski) I said, ‘If I can just hold him off that’s the pass for the win.’ I was pretty confident we were going to be able to do that for 15 laps and then the caution came out. What do you do? Do you pit? Do you stay out? You know a few of them are going to stay out. By the time I got to third those cars were so far ahead of me I was stuck and was not going to get to them. It stinks when you have the fastest car and don’t win, but it’s a team sport and it takes every piece to make it work. We had the car part figured out today, we just missed it on some other ends and just have to keep fighting hard. We got a stage win and led a lot of laps, but you want to win at Bristol so bad. Bristol is the coolest track.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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