Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Race: South Point 400
Date: September 27, 2020
No. 2 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 21st
Stage 2: 13th
Laps Completed: 268/268
Laps Led: 2
Point Standings (behind first): 3rd (-45)
Brad Keselowski scored a 13th-place finish in the South Point 400 Sunday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the Autotrader Ford is third in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 45 point behind leader Kevin Harvick.
Keselowski started 12th and, from the drop of the green, had his hands full with the handling on the Autotrader Ford. He was 13th at the time of the competition caution on lap 25 and pitted during the yellow for four tires and chassis adjustments to aid his loose-handling Mustang. Keselowski wrestled the balance on his No. 2 Ford and by the end of the segment, he was tight off the corners and was credited with a 21st-place finish when the stage ended on lap 80. He pitted during the stage caution for four tires and air pressure adjustments and restarted 17th when the race went green on lap 86.
The adjustments by crew chief Jeremy Bullins improved the handling on the Autotrader Ford early in the run, but as the laps ticked off Keselowski said the balance began to fade and he got tighter with each passing lap. He was one of the final cars to pit when a cycle of green-flag stops began on lap 117 and was credited with leading two laps. Keselowski finished 13th when Stage 2 ended on lap 160. Once again, he pitted during the stage caution for four tires and adjustments and restarted 14th.
In Stage 3, Keselowski consistently ran inside the top-10 as the sun went down and the track cooled. But he was zapped by the timing of the fifth caution on lap 237, which waved just four laps after he made a scheduled stop under green, trapping him a lap down. After taking the wave around with the rest of the leaders, he restarted 16th on lap 242 and had once again worked his way up to eighth position when the final caution of the race on lap 262 pushed the finish of the event into NASCAR Overtime. The chaotic three-lap dash to the finish worked against Keselowski, who chose the bottom lane for the restart. Traffic stacked up three- and four-wide and Keselowski was shuffled back to 13th-place at the checkered flag.
Quote: “Not the night we wanted with the Autotrader Ford, but it could have been a lot worse. It’s frustrating but we certainly still not out of it. We still have a pretty good points cushion so we’re going to try to get through these next two weeks and put up a good race and build ourselves a cushion.”
No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 7th
Stage 2: 5th
Laps Completed: 268/268
Laps Led: 1
Point Standings (behind first): 13th (-1006)
Ryan Blaney had a fast Ford Mustang on Sunday night and finished seventh in the South Point 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the DEX Imaging Ford Mustang ran in and around the top-five most of the night to bring home his 12th top-10 finish of 2020 and sixth in nine starts at Las Vegas.
Blaney started 15th and made his way up to fifth by the competition caution on lap 25. He reported to crew chief Todd Gordon that the DEX Imaging Ford was building tight on exit. He made his first pit stop of the race on lap 26 for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. Restarting 10th, Blaney would make his way back to seventh when Stage 1 concluded on lap 80.
Blaney would restart 10th when Stage 2 began on lap 86. He reported slight improvements to the balance of the DEX Imaging Ford and would make his third stop on lap 119 under green, taking four tires and an additional air pressure adjustment. The adjustments helped and he eventually came home fifth position at the conclusion of Stage 2.
The final stage began with Blaney restarting in sixth position. He would work his way up to fourth by lap 189. Shortly after he would lose two spots as the balance shifted to the loose side. He was running fifth when he made his final stop of the day on lap 231.
Unfortunately, an ill-timed debris caution on lap 237 dropped many of the leaders a lap down, forcing them to take the waive-around. Restarting 14th, Blaney would make his way up as high as third, but a couple late restarts caused the DEX Imaging Ford to go to the tight side and Blaney would come home in the seventh position.
Blaney is 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings heading to Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday.
Quote: “Overall it was a decent night. We had to start mid pack and were able to drive up through there pretty quick. I thought our Mustang was good and we made good adjustments on it throughout the night. By the second stage I thought we were really strong, we just needed to restart with the leaders and stay in touch with them. That caution that trapped a bunch of us a lap down was unfortunate. I think we were running fourth or fifth at the time. We were able to rebound alright and we started third on that last restart and tried to push Matt (DiBenedetto) and get there but the top just kind of trained up on us. It was unfortunate to run seventh but we had a good car and really good adjustments all night. I thought we were right there, so I am proud of that effort.”
No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Stage 1: 2nd
Stage 2: 27th
Laps Completed: 268/268
Laps Led: 1
Point Standings (Behind First): 5th (-50)
Joey Logano started fifth and battled for the lead before an unscheduled pit stop from damage suffered on a Stage 2 restart dropped the team two laps down and into an upward battle for the remainder of the night. Logano showed a lot of speed throughout and used that late in the race to recover for a 14th-place result, salvaging much needed points with two difficult races ahead to set the Round of 8.
After starting fifth, Logano spent most of the opening laps running in the third position, battling a Pennzoil Ford Mustang that was too free. After the first stop of the race, Logano reported he was still too free, but maintained in the second position. The No. 22 Ford finished the opening stage in the second position despite the loose condition continuing on. The team adjusted with air pressure and trackbar on the stage ending stop.
At the start of the second stage, Logano was battling with the No. 18 for the race lead when the No. 11 made a late move to the inside, putting the leaders three wide. The move resulted in left side contact and a tire rub, sending Logano to pit road for an unscheduled stop. Logano continued to battle through the stage trying to regain the track position and the lost lap, but ultimately finished in the 27th position, one lap down to the race leader.
Logano narrowly missed being the recipient of the free pass early in the final stage. The team then elected to pit for four tires and resume their fight for the free pass instead of taking the wave-around and risking being trapped two laps down late in the race. Logano ran in the free pass position until the race leaders began pitting, then another untimely caution flag forced the team to choose pitting or waiving around.
A late caution flag finally provided the free pass for Logano and the No. 22 Pennzoil team. Logano restarted in the 25th position, rallying forward to the 19th spot before another caution with eight laps remaining bunched the field up once again.
Logano used the late race restart to advance the 14th position, salvaging a good finish after early race problems. Logano and the No. 22 team head to Talladega Superspeedway next week, fifth in points, 11 markers above the cutline to advance into the Round of 8.
Quote: “Unfortunately, we got a little damage there and had to pit for the left-rear tire. You can’t afford to blow a left-rear tire in the playoffs and back the thing in the fence and shoot yourself in the foot. We had to pit and then just no cautions, and then the one time I had a shot at it the 48 just got me, so that was a little unfortunate. Eventually, we got the lucky dog and went around with our Pennzoil Mustang and drove back to 14th. I felt like that second stage, not scoring any stage points there hurts, but we’re still above the cutline and we’ll head on to Talladega and see how that one goes.”