Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Michigan I

Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Michigan International Speedway
Race: FireKeepers Casino 400
Date: August 8, 2020
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No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 5th
Stage 1: 5th
Stage 2: 5th
Finish: 2nd
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 161/161
Point Standings (behind first): 2nd (-94)

Notes:


American Muscle

Brad Keselowski made the most of two good race restarts in the closing laps to score a second-place finish in the FireKeepers 400 Saturday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). Keselowski racked up his ninth top-five of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and his equaled his best career finish at MIS, the home track for the Michigan native. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford Mustang remains second in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, now 94 points behind leader and Saturday’s race winner Kevin Harvick.

Keselowski started from the fifth position Saturday and reported that the No. 2 Mustang was running really loose at the start of the race. He pitted during the competition caution on lap 17 for four tires and an air pressure adjustment and he restarted the race in the 12th position. Keselowski said the car was a little tight-handling over the next run but he was able to rally for a fifth-place finish at the conclusion of the first stage on lap 40. Crew Chief Jeremy Bullins made the call to pit during the stage caution on lap 43 for four tires and fuel on the No. 2 Mustang and Keselowski restarted third when the race went green on lap 47.

Stage 2 ran caution free and Keselowski remained inside the top-five throughout the segment. He scored a fifth-place finish when the stage concluded on lap 85 and he told the team the balance on the Discount Tire Ford was free off the corners and tight coming out of the turns. Keselowski pitted during the stage caution on lap 88 as the No. 2 took on four tires and a right-rear wedge adjustment. Speedy work by the Discount Tire team moved Keselowski up to third-place for the restart on lap 91.

The final 67 laps of the race featured six caution periods followed by restarts that featured three- and sometimes four-wide racing. Keselowski made his final stop for four tires on lap 107 and he took advantage of two good restarts late in the race (laps 147 and 154, respectively). The restarts helped him rally from ninth position to third when the ninth caution on lap 155 pushed the finish of the race into NASCAR Overtime. Keselowski used the Choose Rule to line up beside Harvick, the race leader, for the final restart on lap 159. The two raced side-by-side but Keselowski was not able to make the pass for the win and took the checkered flag in second place.

Quotes: “I thought our Discount Tire Ford Mustang was really good. We made a good call there before the competition caution to come in and pit and that cycled us up to 12th or something and we were able to drive to third before that stage and then ran second in the second stage. We took four tires there when we got in our fuel window and it was hard to get through traffic. I wish we would have kept third before that last caution because I would have chosen the bottom and had a little better shot. I am proud of the effort. The 4 (Kevin Harvick) was really fast. We need to work on our stuff a little and I think we can compete a little better tomorrow.”

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No. 12 Menards/Knauf Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 11th
Stage 1: 3rd
Stage 2: 2nd
Finish: 4th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 161/161
Laps Led: 27
Point Standings (Behind First): 4th (-128)

Notes:

Ryan Blaney started 11th and finished fourth in Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The driver of the Menards/Knauf Ford Mustang ran inside the top-five for most of the day and tied his career-best result at Michigan.

Blaney fell back to 19th in the opening laps of the race, but by lap 10 he worked his way back up to 15th in the running order. Crew chief Todd Gordon called Blaney to pit road just prior to the lap 15 competition caution as the No. 12 Ford Mustang was equipped with four new tires. Blaney remained on the lead lap and restarted ninth on lap 19. A strong restart propelled him to the fourth position by lap 30 and he drove his way to third at the conclusion of Stage 1 on lap 40.

Stage 2 began with Blaney running in the fourth position. A strong restart and push propelled Blaney around Denny Hamlin to claim the race lead on lap 50. Blaney led the next 27 laps until Kevin Harvick got by him for the race lead on lap 77 and the Team Penske driver finished Stage 2 in second place.

Blaney restarted the final stage of the race in fourth place. After initially falling back to sixth, he worked his way back up to fourth within a few laps. Fighting a loose-handling car in traffic, Blaney pitted on lap 107 and took the race restart outside of the top-10. He would make his final pit stop on lap 132 and, running on fresh tires, Blaney raced his way back to fourth after a couple of strong late-race restarts. The result marked his eighth top-five finish this season.
Blaney remains fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, 128 points behind Harvick, the series leader, entering Sunday’s race at Michigan. Blaney will from the 17th position on Sunday.

Quote: “I thought our car was really good. I thought our Mustang was pretty good all day. We made a good call there before the competition caution to come in and pit and that cycled us up to 12th or something and we were able to drive to third before that stage and then ran second in the second stage. We took four tires there when we got in our fuel window and it was hard to get through traffic. We didn’t handle good so we came in again with maybe 18 to go and changed it up a little bit and made sure we were good on gas and were able to drive through there. I wish we would have kept third before that last caution because I would have chose the bottom and had a little better shot. I am proud of the effort. The 4 was really fast. We need to work on our stuff a little and I think we can compete a little better tomorrow.”

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No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 1st
Stage 1: 18th
Stage 2: 19th
Finish: 8th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 161/161
Laps Led: 18
Point Standings (Behind First): 6th (-181)

Notes:

Joey Logano started first and finished eighth in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Logano overcame handling issues on the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang as his team made major chassis adjustments throughout the race and the car finally came alive in the closing stages to earn a top-10 finish.

After starting from the pole, Logano led the opening 15 laps prior to the competition caution. The Shell-Pennzoil Ford remained on the track during the first caution as Logano maintained the top position on track while the team delayed making any adjustments. Unfortunately, the handling began to deteriorate on the Shell-Pennzoil Ford and Logano dropped to 18th before the end of the first stage. During the caution period at the end of the opening stage, the No. 22 crew made wedge and air pressure adjustments to the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang.

During the second stage, Logano continued to battle the loose-handling condition that surfaced on the No. 22 Mustang late in the opening stage. Logano was unable to advance farther than the 15th position as he told the team that he needed more entry security for the remainder of the race. Logano fell to the 19th position before the end of the second stage.

Under the Stage 2 ending pit stop, the Shell-Pennzoil crew adjusted the trackbar and air pressure on the No. 22 Ford, hoping to give Logano the entry security he needed to compete with the race leaders. The adjustments allowed Logano to quickly jump forward to the 10th position on the restart before a caution flag slowed the field. Another caution at lap 106 cleared the way for Logano to return to pit road and gave the Shell-Pennzoil crew an opportunity to further refine the handling of the No. 22 Mustang.

Logano continued to run inside the top-10 as the laps wound down on the final stage. Logano pitted for four tires and an air pressure adjustment late in the race while many of the lead-lap cars remained on track. From there, Logano battled forward from the 21st position. Another caution set up a race restart with nine laps remaining and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Mustang lined up in the 20th position.

During a subsequent restart, Logano moved inside the top-10 before another caution sent the race into NASCAR Overtime. Logano continued his forward march as he brought the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang home in eighth place for his 10th top-10 result of the season.

Quote: “It was a good recovery. A little bit of practice this week would have been nice. That was one of the loosest and out of control race car I have had. At the start of this race. The clean air made us look better than what we were. As soon as I lost clean air I was just trying to hang on. Unfortunately I collected a lot of damage along the way on the back bumper from everyone hitting me. I don’t blame them, I was in the way. Over time, by probably the beginning of the third stage we got close. Not quite to where we needed to. Then there at the end we pitted and may have gotten to the other side of it finally. At least we know where the edge is so we can work on it for tomorrow. We got a top-10 out of it. If you had told me we were going to finish eighth after the first 50 laps of this thing I would have taken it but greed always sets in and you want a little more there at the end. We got our Mustang for tomorrow and we got to the other side of it. We should be in the ballpark.”


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