Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Talladega

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No. 2 MoneyLion Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 10th
Stage 1: 19th
Stage 2: 2nd
Finish: 1st – First victory of 2021 season  
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 191/191
Laps Led: 1
Point Standings (behind first): 6th (-128)

Notes: 

  • Brad Keselowski took the lead on the final lap to earn an overtime win in the GEICO 500 Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway. The victory marked the first of the 2021 season for Keselowski and his sixth triumph at the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway. Keselowski tied both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for the most wins at the track with his 35th career Cup Series victory and he has now won at least one NASCAR Cup Series race in each of the past 10 seasons. Keselowski gained three positions in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings with Sunday’s finish, as he is now ranked sixth, 128 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
  • Keselowski started 10th and surged back and forth in the lead draft throughout the opening stage of the race. The driver of the MoneyLion Ford Mustang narrowly avoided disaster late in the opening segment when teammate Joey Logano and Hamlin made contact on the backstretch as the opening segment drew to a close on lap 60. The No. 2 Mustang received only minor damage in the incident. Keselowski pitted three times during the stage caution for minor repairs and restarted 32nd when the race restarted on lap 66.
  • In Stage 2, Keselowski rallied back into contention. He worked his way up to ninth position by lap 83 and a well-executed green flag pit stop for fuel only by the No. 2 Crew on lap 92 kept their driver near the front of the lead draft. A caution on lap 105 set up an 11-lap dash to the finish of the segment. Keselowski restarted third and was just ahead of a multi-car accident triggered by Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. that forced the stage to end under the yellow flag on lap 120. He was credited with a second-place finish and after a round of pit stops and restarted in sixth place when the race returned to the green flag on lap 126.
  • Keselowski made one final surge to the front late in the race, which put him in position to win. He pitted on lap 173 for four tires and restarted 11th when the race went green three laps later. Keselowski steadily worked his way through traffic and the MoneyLion Ford was up to fifth place by lap 178. He ran in the third position on lap 185 when the seventh and final caution flag of the race flew on lap 186, which forced NASCAR overtime. The green flag waved on lap 189 and two laps later Keselowski was able to get past Matt DiBenedetto for the lead and he held on for the win.

Quote: “What an awesome day today to bring the MoneyLion Ford Mustang into victory lane. The whole race I had a couple opportunities to take the lead, but I just kept thinking, ‘Man, keep your car in one piece.’  We’ve been so close here and it just didn’t seem to want to come together here the last few years and I’ve been on kind of a four-year drought here, but it’s nice to get number six.  I would have never dreamed I’d tie Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. here. That’s something. Those guys are really legends. I’m just really proud of my team.”
 

No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 7th
Stage 1: 2nd
Stage 2: 6th
Finish: 9th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 191/191
Laps Led: 11
Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-100)

Notes:

  • Driving the No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang,  Ryan Blaney started seventh, led 11 laps and finished ninth in Sunday afternoon’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The finish marked Blaney’s fifth top-10 career result at the Alabama Superspeedway. Blaney and the No. 12 Ford team are now ranked fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 100 markers behind  leader Denny Hamlin.
  • During the opening run on Sunday, Blaney fell outside the top 10 before the competition caution flag flew on lap 25. Scored in the 11th position, Blaney reported the No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Mustang ran just a little free in the draft. The adjustments on the first stop helped the handling of the No. 12 Mustang and Blaney raced his way to the second position to finish out Stage One. On the stage-ending pit stop, crew chief Todd Gordon elected to keep the previous air pressure adjustment on the No. 12 Ford and take four fresh tires and fuel. Unfortunately, Blaney ran low on fuel while coming onto pit road, which resulted in lost track position.
  • Blaney restarted the second stage in 22nd place and raced his way to eighth before making a green flag stop on lap 92 for fuel and right-side tires. Blaney moved back up into the second position, but got shuffled to sixth before a caution flag ended the second stage prematurely. Blaney told his crew the Menards/Sylvania Mustang was running well and the team elected to pit at the stage caution for right-side tires and fuel, as the No. 12 Mustang won the race off pit road. 
  • Blaney began the final stage as the race leader, but surrendered the top position to fellow Ford racer Aric Almirola to remove debris off the grill of his car. After making a green flag stop, Blaney was scored in 19th place, trailing behind the lead draft. The caution flag was displayed with 17 laps to go, which allowed Blaney to catch the lead draft and remain on track under caution.
  • The High Point N.C. native restarted the race in eighth place with 12 laps remaining. Working with his Ford teammates, Blaney raced his way to the second position before the seventh caution period of the day with four laps remaining, which set up NASCAR overtime. As the field jockeyed for position over the final overtime laps, Blaney was shuffled back and ultimately finished in ninth place.

Quote: “Overall, not a bad day. I really would have liked to not see a caution at the end of that thing with Matt, Brad and I all lined up there.  It would have been nice to see where we all wound up, but the top on green-white-checkers I never think is any good because the bottom always wins out on that because the bottom lane they can’t go anywhere. They can’t move up, and then guys that are in the second lane they just bail to the top because guys in the back are trying to get all the spots you can, so that just kind of makes the top fall apart. It just kind of fell apart on us and then couldn’t get any help from behind, but, overall, nice to still be rolling at the end of that thing and not a bad finish, not a bad day.”


No. 22 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 2nd
Stage 1: 39th
Stage 2: 39th
Finish: 39th
Status: Accident
Laps Completed: 59/188
Laps Led: 10
Point Standings (behind first): 3rd (-93)

Notes:

  • Joey Logano started second in Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, but finished 39th after a lap 59 accident ended the day for the No. 22 Autotrader Ford Mustang. Logano car was turned by another competitor entering turn 3 as the field was racing for the conclusion of the first stage.
  • Logano led laps early in the No. 22 Autotrader Ford Mustang, despite reporting a loose-handling condition, and was running third at the competition caution on lap 25. Logano was battling for the Stage 1 victory when his car suffered contact on corner entry to Turn 3 and went airborne before coming to rest on the wheels of the Autotrader Mustang.
  • Logano was uninjured in the accident, but he unable to finish the race as the No. 22 Autotrader Ford was scored in the 39th position.

Quote: “I am appreciative of driving a car that is this safe and what Team Penske has done for the safety of these cars so that I can live to talk about it and go again. I got lucky that I didn’t get hit while I was in the air. It is unfortunate for our Autotrader Mustang but we will go on but it won’t be a good starting spot next week.”

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