Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway

Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report

Track:                Darlington Raceway

Race:                 The Real Heroes 400

Date:                 May 17, 2020

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No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski

Start:  1st

Stage 1: 5th

Stage 2: 1st

Finish: 13th

Status:  Running

Laps Completed: 293/293

Laps Led: 80

Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-60)

Notes: 

  • Brad Keselowski did a lot of good things in The Real Heroes 400 Sunday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, NASCAR’s first race in more than 70 days during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The driver of the Discount Tire Ford Mustang led 80 laps and won Stage 2, his second stage victory of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. But towards the end of the 293-lap, 400-mile event, Keselowski fell outside the top-10, landing in 13th-position at the checkered flag. With the finish, he jumps up to fifth-place in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, a gain of five positions.
  • Keselowski drew the pole for the Darlington event and led the first 44 laps of the race. He overcame a loose-handling condition to score a fifth-place finish when Stage 1 concluded on lap 90. He pitted for four tires and air pressure adjustments during the stage caution on lap 93 and restarted sixth when the race went green.
  • Two excellent pit stops by the Discount Tire team put Keselowski in contention to win Stage 2. Keselowski was running seventh when the sixth caution flag came out on lap 156. He pitted one lap later for four tires and lightning-fast service by the 2 Crew gave him second position for the restart on lap 160. The seventh caution on lap 174 set up another round of stops and once again the team made a fast stop, this time giving Keselowski the lead on lap 176. The driver did his part on the track, holding the lead for the next 10 laps to score the stage win when the segment concluded on lap 185.
  • The final stage brought a disappointing turn of events for the team. Keselowski grabbed the lead on lap 193 and held the top spot until lap 215. But over the final 79 laps, the No. 2 Ford Mustang steadily became more of a handful for Keselowski. As the Discount Tire Ford became more loose and Keselowski lost rear grip on the car, he couldn’t maintain position inside the top-10, and he took the checkered flag in 13th place when the race concluded on lap 293.

 

Quotes: “We had an up and down day with our Discount Tire Ford and it finished on a down note after we lost the handling at the end. It was nice to be leading for quite a while. It felt like with 100 laps to go we were going to win. I came off of pit road second and I don’t know if I just lost the clean air or what it was, but it just went completely away, and we fell back. We ended up finishing 13th which was a major bummer, but it is what it is. It is nice to be back and get the opportunity to race.”

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No. 12 Menards/Duracell Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney

Start: 7th

Stage 1: 18th

Stage 2: 13th

Finish: 16th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 293/293

Laps Led: 0

Point Standings (Behind First): 8th (-74)

  • Ryan Blaney battled an ill-handling Menards/Duracell Ford Mustang throughout The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
  • The field was set per random draw, which gave the High Point, N.C. native the seventh-place starting position. Within the first 20 laps Blaney fell outside the top-10 and, unfortunately, that’s where he would stay for most of the afternoon.
  • For much of the race, Blaney said the Menards/Duracell Ford was tight and lacked front grip. Crew chief Todd Gordon made multiple changes during the opening segment of the race, including air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments. Blaney was credited with an 18th-place finish when the stage ended on lap 90.
  • Stage 2 saw the Menards/Duracell Ford continue to be on the tight side. The seventh caution on lap 174 and subsequent 10-lap run on fresh tires saw Blaney come home with a 13th-place finish when the stage ended on lap 185.
  • Blaney and the Menards team began to overcome their handling woes in the third and final stage – it just happened a little too late to make a run for the win. After falling back to 21st, the team improved the balance of the Menards/Duracell Ford and Blaney rallied through the field to score a 16th-place finish.
  • Blaney is now eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 74 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

Quote: “It was great to be back at the track today. We struggled with the balance of our Menards/Duracell Ford. We were too tight to start and finally got the car to the loose side by the end of the race. Darlington has been a challenge in the past and we’ll regroup and get ready to go racing again on Wednesday night.”

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No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano 

Start:  9th

Stage 1: 11th

Stage 2: 8th

Finish: 18th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 293/293

Laps Led: 0

Point Standings (Behind First): 3rd (-33)

     

Notes:

  • A loose wheel cost Joey Logano and Shell-Pennzoil team valuable track position in the final stage of The Real Heroes 400 Sunday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, robbing the team of a potential top-10 finish. Logano was credited with an 18th-place result and is now third in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 33 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
  • Logano started ninth and struggled early during the first 30 lap run as he slipped back to the 16th position fighting an extremely tight Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang. Under the competition caution on lap 32, the team pitted twice, making multiple chassis adjustments to help Logano around the tricky Darlington Raceway. Logano wrestled a tight condition from then until Stage 1 ended on lap 90, as he scored a 12th-place finish. On the stop during the stage caution, the team made chassis and air pressure changes to the Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and sent Logano back to the track in ninth position.
  • Logano restarted the second stage in the bottom lane, a disadvantage that cost him a few positions. Two cautions early in the segment gave Logano and the Shell-Pennzoil team the opportunity to pit for adjustments. Logano restarted 10th but powered to the sixth position on the restart. Midway through Stage 2 Logano reported his Ford Mustang was really good in Turns 3 and 4 and he finished eighth when the stage concluded on lap 185.
  • Unfortunately, the No. 22 Ford had a loose wheel in the early laps of the third and final stage, which forced Logano to pit road – just as the ninth caution was displayed on lap 213. The sequence of events dropped Logano back to 24th position. He rallied back to the 16th before the 10th and final caution on lap 254 brought the field to pit road.
  • Good work by the Shell-Pennzoil crew on the final stop gained Logano three positions, as he moved up to 13th for the restart on lap 259. Over the final 34 laps, the track took another major swing to the tight side as Logano shuffled back to 18th position at the checkered flag.

 

Quote: “We were way off on the handling when we started. Our Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang was just too tight. Paul (Wolfe) and the guys made some really good adjustments on it and we got inside the top-10. Unfortunately, the loose wheel, not really sure what caused it, but we’ll look into it and figure it out. Towards the end of the race just lost the handling again. We’ll come back on Wednesday and start third and try to build on what we learned today. This was a big day for our sport getting back on track and thankful for all the fans who tuned in to FOX.”

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