Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Race: South Point 400
Date: September 16, 2018
No. 2 Autotrader Ford Fusion – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 13th
Stage 2: 1st
Laps Completed: 272/272
Laps Led: 75
Playoff Standings (behind first): 3rd (-18)
· Brad Keselowski scored one of the biggest wins of his NASCAR career Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 2 Autotrader Ford Fusion gave Team Penske win number 500 as a company and tied legendary driver Mark Donohue for most all-time wins as a driver at Team Penske.
· Keselowski’s victory in the inaugural South Point 400 propelled him into Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs. He also tied legendary driver Mark Donohue for most wins all-time at Team Penske (each driver has 59). The win was Keselowski’s third in 11 races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and his third consecutive MENCS victory this season (Darlington and Indianapolis are the others).
· The No. 2 Autotrader pit crew turned in one of their most impressive performances of the season at Las Vegas despite temperatures on pit road that soared past 100 degrees. Five times during the race the squad beat all other teams off pit road, giving Keselowski the lead each time.
· Keselowski struggled during Stage 1, saying that his car was both tight in the center of the corners and loose on exit at both end of the track. He finished 13th in the opening segment of the race. Crew chief Paul Wolfe made adjustments along with a four-tire stop during the stage caution on lap 84. The changes worked, greatly improving the handling of the No. 2 Ford Fusion.
· Keselowski took the lead for the final time when he passed Kyle Larson for the lead on lap 251 of the 272-lap race. From there he survived three cautions over the final 19 laps (including a ten-minute red flag for track cleanup following a five-car accident on lap 267) to win the race. On the final restart, Keselowski immediately pulled away from teammate Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. to secure the victory, crossing the finish line 1.2767 seconds ahead of Larson, who made a late rally to grab second-place.
Quote: “We’re so glad to be able to win and get in Victory Lane again with the Autotrader Ford. What a special day: 500 wins for Team Penske, three in a row this season and the first win in the Playoffs. There are too many storylines for me to get it all right, but we’re very thankful and very proud for all of them. I want to say thank-you to everyone who braved 100 degree heat all day. You guys are the real heroes. You guys pay to watch and thank you for doing that. Thank you for coming out today and tolerating the heat.”
No. 12 PPG Ford Fusion – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 19th
Stage 2: 8th
Laps Completed: 272/272
Laps Led: 0
Playoff Standings (behind first): 7th (-45)
· Ryan Blaney qualified the No. 12 PPG Ford Fusion in sixth position for the inaugural South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race was the first trip for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to the 1.5-mile speedway in September, which was held in sizzling hot conditions with the air temperatures in the low-100s and track temperatures.
· From the drop of the green flag, Blaney was on the move toward the front. He drove into the top-five early, but soon reported that his PPG Ford had no forward drive in the center of the turns. He fell back through the field while trying to hold on to a lead lap position until the first stage break on lap 80. Blaney made slight contact with the No. 10 car of Aric Almirola, after he attempted to pass Blaney, who was credited with a 19th-place finish in Stage 1.
· The PPG team made repairs along with an air pressure and track bar adjustment on the lap during the stage break caution on lap 84. Once Blaney returned to the track, he quickly made his way back inside the top-10 by lap 118. He reported his No. 12 Ford Fusion built loose as the run went along. A caution on lap 150 set up a short run to the end of Stage 2. Blaney finished eighth and collected valuable stage points.
· With limited laps on the tires, crew chief Jeremy Bullins opted for a two-tire pit strategy under the caution following Stage 2. The move gave Blaney much-need track position. He settled into a good battle for position in the top-five with Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. Blaney’s car continued to go back to the loose side as the next round of pit stops came under caution on lap 184.
· The race went green on lap 187 and Blaney drove his way up to fourth-place by lap 204. He made his final stop of the race on lap 218 for four tires and adjustments. Strong restarts got Blaney to the outside of the front row by the race’s first green-white-checkered restart on lap 265.
· Blaney raced fellow Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano hard for the win but Blaney settled for a fifth-place finish. Keselowski would claim Team Penske’s 500th win while Blaney was credited with his sixth top-five finish of 2018. He is seventh in the MENCS playoff standings.
Quote: “We were all over the place. I was good on short runs and long runs I was really loose. We were trying to get it to where it would last. We got it a little better but definitely not where we need to be. It was a struggle. They worked really hard all day. I can’t thank them enough for that. I tried to stay out of trouble and just survive. Congrats to Brad and the No. 2 team on the 500th win for Team Penske. We have to work on some stuff but salvaging a decent day is a good day.”
No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Fusion – Joey Logano
Stage 1: 7th
Stage 2: 6th
Laps Completed: 272/272
Laps Led: 46
Playoff Standings (behind first): 5th (-31)
· Joey Logano started second in Sunday afternoon’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Fusion, but charged into the lead on the opening lap. Logano led the opening 33 laps, but reported the Pennzoil Ford Fusion was too tight. He dropped to third before pitting for four tires and adjustments on lap 38.
· Logano continued to struggle with the tight handling condition during the second run of the race. He drifted outside the top-five as the laps clicked off in Stage 1. Logano reported that while the adjustments on the first stop helped, now everyone had improved as well. Crew chief Todd Gordon elected to adjust again with air pressure on stop during the stage caution on lap 84. Great work by the Pennzoil crew gained Logano four positions, moving Logano up to third-place when Stage 2 went green on lap 87.
· During the third run of the race, Logano ran inside the top-five but reported the handling of the Pennzoil Ford was now loose. During the stop on lap 111, the team went the opposite direction on air pressure adjustments from the previous stop.
· As the second stage drew to a close, Logano used a friendly tip from spotter TJ Majors, who advised him to move up to the top groove. Logano was able to maintain his position until the caution flag was displayed at lap 147. The team elected to pit for additional adjustments, but there was an issue on the right front, resulting in the team dropping four positions for the ensuing restart. Logano scrambled back to finish sixth when the second stage finished on lap 160.
· Under the caution at lap 182, Logano reported the balance of the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford was the best it had been throughout the event. Logano had moved past cars on differing pit strategies on the restart, and settled in among the top-five.
· He reported on lap 215 that he needed additional turn in the center on the short runs, but also needed to maintain rear grip on the long runs. The team made additional air pressure adjustments and excellent pit work put Logano in second-place for the restart, alongside teammate Brad Keselowski.
· Logano vaulted to the lead with a solid push on the restart, holding the top position until the caution was displayed on lap 232. He restarted third after making a pit stop for their final set of new tires. Logano battled through multiple late race restarts to finish fourth position after leading 46 laps.
Quote: “The 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was the fastest car. After three laps he was really quick but the first three laps he was a little bit off. We had a good restart with the 2 (Brad Keselowski) here at the end. There is so much more drive on the bottom there. You could hook up the rear tires and squirt ahead of the field there. Overall I am proud of the effort this weekend. We had a good Pennzoil Ford. I just wish I could do it one more time.”