Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Coca Cola 600

Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report

Track:                Charlotte Motor Speedway

Race:                 Coca-Cola 600

Date:                 May 24, 2020

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No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski

Start:  9th

Stage 1: 15th

Stage 2: 12th

Stage 3: 8th

Finish: 1st

Status:  Running

Laps Completed: 405/405

Laps Led: 21

Point Standings (behind first): 5th (-56)

Notes: 

  • Brad Keselowski held off Jimmie Johnson in a NASCAR overtime finish to win the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Keselowski scored his first career victory in NASCAR’s longest race. The win was his first of the 2020 season and the his second in his career at Charlotte. It represented his 31st victory in NASCAR Cup Series competition and his 30th triumph in NASCAR’s premier series for Team Penske. With the win, he jumps up to fifth-place in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings.
  • Keselowski qualified ninth for the race but unapproved adjustments to the Miller Lite Ford Mustang forced the former Cup Series champ to start at the rear of the 40-car field. He had moved up to 16th position when rain forced the cars to pit lane on lap 50 for a delay of just over an hour. When the event resumed, Keselowski has his hands full with the handling on the No. 2 Mustang, but he persevered and finished 16th when Stage 1 concluded on lap 100.
  • Stage 2 was much of the same for the No. 2 Miller Lite team. Keselowski ran inside the top 15 for most of the segment but worked his way up to 12th position when the stage ended on lap 200. He pitted for four tires during the caution on lap 204, and quick work by the No. 2 Crew moved Keselowski up to 10th position when the race went back to green on lap 208.
  • Keselowski ran inside the top-10 for nearly all of Stage 3. He took the lead for the first time during a cycle of green flag stops on lap 256. He held the top spot for seven laps before pitting under green on 263 for four tires and adjustments. Keselowski was 11th when the fifth caution slowed the pace of the field on lap 276 and he was running eighth when the stage ended on lap 300. The Miller Lite Mustang made a four-tire stop during the stage caution and restarted seventh when the final segment began on lap 307.
  • Adjustments by crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the No. 2 crew for the changing track conditions paid off in the final segment. Keselowski was up to fourth when the seventh caution flag was displayed on lap 349. Excellent work by the Miller Lite team moved Keselowski up to second place for the race restart on lap 353. He passed Jimmie Johnson for the lead one lap later, holding the top spot until Chase Elliott moved by Keselowski on lap 363.
  • Elliott appeared to be in command of the race until the final caution flag flew with two laps to go, setting up a NASCAR overtime finish. Elliott chose to pit on lap 401, while Keselowski stayed on the race track and reclaimed the lead. Keselowski cleared Jimmie Johnson to maintain the lead off Turn 2 moments after the race went green on lap 403 and he never looked back. The Team Penske driver scored his first Coca-Cola 600 victory by .293 seconds ahead of Johnson, who was later penalized after his car failed post-race tech inspection.

Quotes: “I’m so happy for my team. I wish my wife and my daughters were here. It’s the Coke 600 and this leaves only one major left for me, the Daytona 500, so we’re checking them off.  I’m really happy for Miller Lite and Ford and everybody who just works their butt off at Team Penske.  We might not have been the fastest car today, but, wow, did we grind this one out.  The pit crew at the end – during the yellow right before the last one – had a blazing stop to get us up front and put us in position.  All these things just came together and I’m tickled to death.  It’s a little overwhelming to be honest.”

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No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney

Start: 26th

Stage 1: 12th

Stage 2: 9th

Stage 3:  3rd

Finish: 3rd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 405/405

Laps Led: 0

Point Standings (Behind First): 7th (-79)

  • Ryan Blaney capped off a strong night with a third-place finish in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, driving the No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang. This was the High Point, NC native’s best finish in eight prior starts at the 1.5-mile oval as well as his first top-10 finish since the Daytona 500 in February.
  • Blaney started 26th and within the first 10 laps of the event, he worked his way into the top-20. After being blocked in on his first pit stop on lap 23, Blaney was running 26th before a rain delay halted the event for just over an hour. Once racing resumed the DEX Imaging Ford marched forward scoring a 12th-place finish in Stage 1.
  • Blaney began Stage 2 from the 11th position. He eventually worked his way into the top-10 by lap 150. Blaney reported improvements in the car from Stage 1 but he needed a little more front turn. He brought the DEX Imaging Ford Mustang to pit road on lap 154 for routine service and an air pressure adjustment. Blaney maintained the ninth position when the stage came to its conclusion on lap 200.
  • After beginning Stage 3 in the eighth position, Blaney pitted for routine service and a wedge adjustment on lap 25. He drove in fifth position for most of the stage before stopping under caution on lap 277 for right-side tires. The move allowed him to bring home a third-place finish in Stage 2 and valuable stage points in the process.
  • Following a tough pit stop, Blaney restarted the final stage of NASCAR’s longest race from the 10th position. With the balance on the No. 12 Mustang going to the free side, Blaney raced his way to seventh by lap 360 and sixth by lap 390. A caution on lap 399 saw crew chief Todd Gordon keep Blaney on track for a green/white/checkered flag finish. He restarted fourth and make his way up to third before he was passed by Chase Elliott, racing with fresh tires, on the last lap as Blaney crossed the finish line in fourth place.
  • Blaney is now seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 79 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

Quote: “We started towards the back and gained a lot of spots in the beginning, but we got boxed in on the first stop and lost all those spots we gained. I thought we were in a good spot on the restart with 45 or 48 to go and somebody got loose on the bottom into three and we had to go all the way up to the wall to miss him in the middle of three and four. We lost a lot of spots right there and that really hurt us. That lost us all the track position we gained towards the end. We restarted sixth or maybe even eighth on the top and I thought we were going to roll, but that dropped us back to maybe 12th and we had to fight back from there. I thought our DEX Imaging Ford was competitive, probably not the best car out there, but a top-five car all night. It was a good call to stay out there at the end. We restarted fourth and gave us a chance. We would have come home with a decent day, but we passed a lot of cars and definitely had a long night working on it.”

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No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano 

Start:  7th

Stage 1: 5th

Stage 2: 7th

Stage 3: 1st

Finish: 13th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 400/400

Laps Led: 26

Point Standings (Behind First): 2nd (-23)

     

Notes:

  • Joey Logano started seventh Sunday night, won the third stage and ran inside the top-10 for the majority of the event before a late-race speeding penalty derailed the strong run. The pit-lane speed violation relegated the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang to a 13th-place finish.
  • After starting seventh, Logano settled in for the opening 20 laps of the 600-mile race as he reported the Shell-Pennzoil Ford was a little tight handling and then went into a four-wheel slide. At the competition of the caution period, the No. 22 team elected to not make any changes to the air pressure and chassis, but they did add tape to the nose as the track was expected to take a swing to the tight side. Rain then brought a halt to the race for an extended period of time at lap 50.
  • At the end of the first stage, Logano reported his Ford Mustang was running just a touch free, but he didn’t want the team to make adjustments as he felt the car was really close to being balanced over the run to lap 100.  The Shell-Pennzoil Ford remained free for the majority of the second stage, as Logano ultimately finished in the seventh position. Under the stage caution, crew chief Paul Wolfe called for a significant air pressure adjustment, looking to get the No. 22 Mustang ahead of the changing track conditions.
  • Midway through the third stage, Logano reported the Shell-Pennzoil Ford was a little free in clean air while being almost neutral in traffic. At lap 257, Wolfe elected to make a slight wedge adjustment to the car to prepare for the final stage. At lap 277, the team decided to remain on the track and cycle to the lead as many of the leaders pitted to take two tires for the 20-lap run to the end of the third stage. The gamble paid off as Logano cruised to the Stage 3 victory.
  • After winning the third stage, Logano restarted second as the No. 21 Ford gained position while electing to take two tires on its stop. On the restart, Logano avoided disaster when the Shell-Pennzoil Ford jumped sideways, and he was forced to rally back from the eighth position. Unfortunately, the No. 22 Ford Mustang took a swing to the loose side, with Logano dropping to the 10th position as the car ran as free as it had been all night long by lap 340.
  • A pit stop at lap 350 saw the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford penalized for speeding on pit road, which dropped Logano to the tail of the field for the final 48-lap shootout. Logano settled into 17th-place, battling an extremely tight-handling Ford Mustang. A late caution flag set up an overtime finish with the No. 22 Ford team choosing to pit for four tires and a major air pressure adjustment. Logano restarted the race 18th and rallied for a 13th-place finish in the two-lap shootout.

 

Quote: “The Shell-Pennzoil Ford was as fast as anybody when we had track position tonight. We fought loose at times and then got really tight at the end of the race. We pitted before the overtime finish and we were able to battle forward and finish 13th. We scored a fair amount of stage points and got the playoff point for the Stage 3 win, and those are really important once you get to the playoffs.”

 

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