Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Atlanta

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No. 2 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 4th
Stage 1: 11th
Stage 2: 29th
Finish: 28th
Status: Running
Laps Completed:
Laps Led: 321/325
Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-71)

Notes: 

  • A mid-race bump derailed Brad Keselowski’s chances for a good finish Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 2 Autotrader Ford was credited with a 28th-place finish in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 and is fifth in NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 71 points behind the leader. 
  • In Stage 1 Keselowski battled a Mustang that was too free, especially at the two-thirds mark of the corners. He stayed inside the top-10 until the final laps of the segment when he slipped back to 11th position. Keselowski pitted during the stage caution on lap 108 for four tires and a major round of adjustments and restarted 14th when the race went green on lap 112.   
  • Unfortunately, Keselowski never got a chance to see if the changes worked. On lap 120, Martin Truex Jr. got loose at the exit of Turn 4 and slid up the track in front of the Autotrader Ford. Keselowski made contact with Truex Jr., which pushed in the nose of the No. 2 Mustang plus other damage. He stopped as scheduled on lap 170 for tires and repairs and returned to the track, losing two laps in the process. Keselowski finished 29th when the stage ended on lap 210 and the Autotrader crew made multiple stops during the stage break for repairs. The team patched up their Mustang and Keselowski restarted 30th when the race went green on lap 217.
  • Keselowski stayed out during the fifth caution on lap 221, taking the wave around and regaining one of his lost laps. Despite the team’s best efforts, he was unable to make significant progress towards the front and was credited with a 28th-place finish. 

 
Quotes: “Certainly not the day we wanted with our Autotrader Ford. We’ll bounce back next week at Bristol.”


No. 12 BodyArmor Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney  
Start: 10th
Stage 1: 3rd
Stage2: 2nd
Finish: 1st (Fifth career NCS Victory)
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 325/325
Laps Led: 25
Point Standings (behind first): 7th (-86)
     
Notes:

  • Ryan Blaney passed Kyle Larson with nine laps to go to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Blaney tracked down Larson and made his race winning pass off Turn 4 and steadily pulled way in the final laps. The win was his fifth NASCAR Cup Series victory and first of the 2021 season. The driver of the BodyArmor Ford Mustang led three times for 25 laps and won for the first time in six starts at Atlanta.
  • Blaney started 10th and worked his way forward from the drop of the green flag, moving the BodyArmor Ford Mustang into the top-five by lap 16 when he passed teammate Joey Logano. Crew chief Todd Gordon made an air pressure change for Blaney during the first pit stop on lap 27 to aid a loose-handling condition in Turn 3. During the second run, Blaney reported the handling was improved, but was still too free over the bumps, which prompted crew chief Todd Gordon to make a significant wedge adjustment and Blaney scored a third-place finish when Stage 1 ended on lap 105. He pitted during the stage caution and lined up second when the race went green.
  • Blaney continued to run in the second position early in Stage 2. Midway through the run, he reported a slight vibration in the BodyArmor Mustang, but continued to run inside the top-five. Despite the vibration, Blaney finished second when Stage 2 concluded on lap 210. Gordon made the call for only a slight air pressure adjustment during a round of pit stops during the stage caution.
  • A quick caution at the start of Stage 3 brought the field back to pit road with the No. 12 BodyArmor crew winning the race off pit lane. Blaney pitted under green on lap 269 for four tires and fuel. He returned to the track nearly two seconds behind leader Larson but with 25 laps to go began to close in on the race leader.
  • With nine laps remaining, Blaney used a power move from the top-lane, diving under Larson and taking the lead in the No. 12 BodyArmor Ford Mustang. Blaney never looked back, officially crossing the finish line 2.083 ahead of Larson to score the victory. With the win and stage points, Blaney now sits seventh in the series standings, trailing the leader by 86 points.

Quote: “The 5 (Larson) was crazy fast there the whole race and then we started closing in.  Our BodyArmor Ford got a lot better there that last run.  I think towards the end of Stage 2 it was starting to get there and then before that last green flag stop it really came to life. I don’t know if the track changed or what, but we were just tightening it up all day.  I’m happy there were a couple long runs at the end. I can’t thank BodyArmor, Menards, DEX, Advance Auto Parts enough for what they do and Ford.  It’s cool to get a win at Atlanta.  I love this place.  It’s nice to have a good run here and win.”


No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 3rd
Stage 1: 13th
Stage2: 15th
Finish: 15th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 324/325
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 3rd (-63)

Notes:

  • Joey Logano started third and finished 15th Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang fought handling issues throughout the race, with long, green flag runs offering few opportunities to improve the handling of the No. 22 Ford Mustang.
  • Logano started third but slipped outside the top-five during the opening run of the race because the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang was tight through the corners. Crew chief Paul Wolfe made adjustments during the competition caution on lap 27 with air pressure and tape on the nose. Wolfe made trackbar and air pressure adjustments on the second stop and Logano reported the rear tires stayed longer during that run, but he needed the front tires to bite more.
  • Logano pitted following Stage 1 on lap 108 for a wedge adjustment and air pressure change for more turn on entry and secure corner exit. He made a scheduled stop under green on lap 160 for a significant wedge adjustment because the balance on his Mustang handling had not improved. Logano was credited with a 15th-place finish when Stage 2 concluded on lap 210 and he received the free pass back to the lead lap. The team pitted during the stage caution for wedge and trackbar adjustments to raise the front splitter off the track and improve the turning of the car in the corners.
  • Throughout the third and final stage Logano wrested with a tight handling condition. He made a scheduled stop under green on lap 268 for four tires plus air pressure changes. But at the laps ticked away and the race drew to a close, Logano couldn’t make a rally towards the front, collecting a 15th-place finish. 

 
Quote: “Not the day we were looking for with our Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. Fought the handling most of the race and kept adjusting on it. We’ll keep working on the 550 tracks and we’ll get stronger. Congrats to Ryan Blaney and the 12 team. That’s a great win and the fifth straight at Atlanta for Ford.”


No. 33 PIRTEK Ford Mustang – Austin Cindric  
Start: 39th
Stage 1: 26th
Stage 2: 23rd
Finish: 22nd
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 323/325
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings: N/A

Notes:

  • Austin Cindric started 39th and finished 22nd, making only his second NASCAR Cup Series start of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Season in the No. 33 PIRTEK Ford Mustang on Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cindric fought forward throughout the 500-mile race after the field was set per the NASCAR Qualifying Matrix.
  • Once the race started, the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champ raced his way inside the top-25, battling a PIRTEK Ford Mustang that was a little tight in the center and loose off the high-banked, abrasive corners of the 1.5-mile Georgia speedway.
  • On lap 65 crew chief Miles Stanley called his driver to pit road for a scheduled green flag stop for four tires and fuel. Once the field cycled through and the stage concluded on lap 105, Cindric was scored 26th, one-lap down to the leaders. 
  • Crew chief Miles Stanley called the PIRTEK Mustang to pit road during the stage caution for four tires, fuel and adjustments to aid the mishandling Ford and with Cindric restarting the race in the 25th position on lap 111.
  • During Stage 2, the NCS rookie continued to gain experience and run inside the top-25. On lap 160 Cindric made another scheduled green-flag stop and cycled to 26th two-laps down. He was able to race his way to 23rd at the conclusion of Stage 2. 
  • The field restarted on lap 216 with the caution flag being displayed three-laps later allowing Cindric and the No. 33 PIRTEK team to take the wave around. Cindric restarted in the 23rd position, one-lap down to the leaders on lap 224.
  • Cindric came to pit road for his final stop under green on lap 267 for final adjustments, four tires and fuel and was scored 23rd two-laps down. Coming to the checkered flag Cindric was able to gain one more position and finish the PIRTEK Ford in the 22nd position.

Quotes: “I would say that having all the fenders on here and getting as much green flag running as I did today definitely taught me a lot and learned a lot.  That was my goal, picking this race, getting long green and learning all I can about these cars in tough situations.  I feel like our strength was definitely on the long run and we just lacked track position and went too many laps down too early.  We had to fight that a lot of the day and just little things here and there and that’s where it counts in this series.  I’m looking forward to the next one.  Hopefully, we’ll find some track position and try and get closer to the top 10.”

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