Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Martinsville

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No. 2 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 10th
Stage 1: 8th
Stage 2: 6th
Finish: 33rd
Status: Accident
Laps Completed: 385/500
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 9th (-135)

Notes: 

  • Brad Keselowski was sidelined by an accident with just over 100 laps to go in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 Sunday evening at Martinsville Speedway. Keselowski was credited with a 33rd-place finish in the final rundown and is now ninth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 135 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
  • The 500-lap race, originally scheduled for Saturday night, was pushed to Sunday afternoon after rain halted the event after 42 laps. Keselowski lined up seventh when the race went green and said the balance on his No. 2 Mustang was too free on exit and was losing drive during the long run. He finished eighth when the first stage concluded on lap 130. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the call to pit during the during the stage caution on lap 134 for four tires and an air pressure adjustment, and Keselowski restarted eighth on lap 140.
  • Keselowski scored a sixth-place finish in Stage 2 thanks to a good restart following the fifth caution. For the majority of the segment Keselowski ran just inside the top-10 but was unable to make significant progress toward the front. Keselowski said he needed to turn better when he was off the brakes in the corners. He pitted for four tires on lap 242 and was running seventh when the caution waved 10 laps later. The race went green on lap 258 and Keselowski moved from seventh to sixth in the two-lap dash to finish the stage. He didn’t pit during the stage caution and restarted second when the race went green on lap 269.
  • The complexion of the race would soon change for Keselowski. He was running third when the eighth caution set up a round of pit stops on lap 290. A power steering issue greatly hampered his stop, shuffling Keselowski back to 15th position for the restart. The mechanical issues didn’t improve, and he spun in Turn 2 on lap 341, losing a lap in the process.
  • Keselowski briefly returned to the lead lap when Erik Jones spun on lap 372 and he received the free pass back onto the lead lap. But Keselowski’s day came to an end when he was caught up in the middle of a 12-car accident in Turn 2 on lap 387, leaving him with a 33rd-place finish. 

Quotes: “It’s just unfortunate that we got caught up in it.  It looked like some guys got in front of me and the track was blocked.  It’s a bummer.  I think our Autotrader Ford was really good.  We drove up into the top five and lost the power-steering.  I was able to manhandle it around the racetrack, but I couldn’t get down pit road where you go to turn in your pit box. I just couldn’t get the car stopped in the box and pointed the right way. We just have to figure out why we lost the power-steering that kind of put us behind.”


No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 4th
Stage 1: 1st
Stage 2: 1st
Finish: 11th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 157
Final Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-107)

Notes:

  • Ryan Blaney and the Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang dominated most of the afternoon at Martinsville Speedway before falling to the grips of a late-race mistake on pit road that ultimately cost the No. 12 team a chance for the win. Blaney was credited with a 11th- place finish in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500.
  • The 500-lap event at the famed paperclip-shaped oval was delayed to Sunday due to inclement weather in the Martinsville area the night before. When the engines fired back up on Sunday, Blaney started fourth and quickly moved up to the top position. Despite some wheel chatter, the No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil Mustang crossed the start/finish line first to secure the win in the first stage, his second overall stage win of 2021.
  • Restarting Stage 2 in the top position, Blaney battled with Denny Hamlin for a majority of the stage. With a great pit stop on lap 243, the No. 12 machine managed to stay out front through a long green-flag run and bring home his third stage win of 2021.
  • While Blaney and the No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil team continued to run upfront in the final stage, the call from the box was to get fresh tires for the last 47-lap run. Unfortunately, the No. 12 team was issued a penalty for removing a pit item from the box and had to start at the tail end of the field. Restarting 19th, Blaney managed to pick off eight additional spots to finish the race in 11th.

 
Quote: We had a really good Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang tonight.  On the long runs we were really good.  Denny (Hamlin) was good on short runs.  I was just kind of trying to hold off the guys behind me until we got 20 or so laps in and then I could kind of start creeping forward. We just got that pit road penalty at the end.  It’s just a mistake and something that should be avoided.  We’ve had an issue the last three times we’ve been here with a car to win, so that’s frustrating but I’m real proud of the effort.  I just wish we could close one out.”
 

No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 1st
Stage 1: 9th
Stage 2: 18th
Finish: 6th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 6
Point Standings (behind first): 3rd (-77)

Notes:

  • Joey Logano started first and finished sixth in Sunday’s continued Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. It was an up and down day for the Shell-Pennzoil Ford team, battling handling issues and going from outside the top-15 to back inside the top-five before settling in the sixth position.
  • Logano led the opening four laps of the race before sliding back to third, battling a loose Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. As the opening run went on, Logano regained the second position and was running laps faster than the race leader before a caution at lap 40. The team adjusted with four tires and a trackbar adjustment, but the race was ultimately halted at lap 42 for rain. The race was halted overnight and resumed on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET.
  • When racing resumed, Logano remained too free taking off and struggled with rear grip through the remainder of the first stage, finishing in the ninth position with the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. On the ensuring pit stop, crew chief Paul Wolfe adjusted with trackbar and air pressure adjustments. The handling issues continued during the second stage with Logano lacking lateral grip, particularly on corner exit, as he drifted back outside the top-15. A caution flag with less than 20 laps remaining in the stage spared the team from dropping a lap down. On the stop the team made a significant wedge adjustment to the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. Unfortunately, Logano was penalized for too fast exiting the pits, forcing the team to drop to the rear of the field for the 16-lap sprint to the finish of the stage.
  • At the conclusion of the second stage, Logano remained on the track and then drove forward back into the top-five. He reported that the drive-off was better and the team had made progress on the handling. As the stage went on, the Shell-Pennzoil crew continued making slight adjustments to the No. 22 Ford, as Logano maintained in the top-five.
  • Logano ultimately remained near the top-five, finishing sixth as the race featured a long run to the finish.

Quote: “I thought we were decent yesterday the first run and then fired off on this first run and was like, ‘Uh oh.’  I had no rear grip and started fighting loose in and off.  We almost went down a lap, but a good strategy play got us up toward the front and a couple good changes got us closer to where I needed to be. I was expecting a lot more out of today, but we still got a sixth-place finish with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang.”

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