Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Texas II

Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Race: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
Date: October 28, 2020
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No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Start: 3rd
Stage 1: 16th
Stage 2: 4th
Finish: 6th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 334/334
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (Above the Cutline): 4th (+25)

Notes:


American Muscle

Brad Keselowski scored a sixth-place finish in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Wednesday evening at Texas Motor Speedway. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford racked up his 22nd top-10 in 34 races this season. He is fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings 25 points above eight above the Championship 4 cutline.

Keselowski started third and was second when he pitted for four tires under caution on lap 24. He restarted 15th and was running ninth when a light mist and fog forced the race to be halted on lap 52. NASCAR officials tried for several hours to dry the track, but persistent rain and mist forced the restart of the race on Monday. NASCAR tried multiple times to dry the track on Monday and Tuesday before the event restarted on Wednesday afternoon.

When the race restarted, the balance on the No. 2 Ford Mustang was a handful for Keselowski. He struggled on the exit off Turn 4 which forced him to lift, costing him positions. Keselowski was credited with a 16th-place finish when Stage 1 concluded on lap 105. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins called for four tires and a wedge adjustment during a round of pit stops under the stage caution and he restarted 15th on lap 111.

Early in Stage 2, Keselowski was still struggling with the balance on his Mustang, dropping back to 19th-place. He pitted during the seventh caution on lap 135 for four tires and another round of adjustments and restarted 17th when the race went green. As the run progressed, Keselowski said his Mustang began to turn better in the corners and he slowly began to climb back into contention. As the segment entered its closing laps, Bullins made a gutsy pit call for fuel-only under green on lap 202, eight laps from the end of Stage 2. The move propelled Keselowski to a fourth-place finish when the stage ended on lap 210 and the driver of the Discount Tire Ford claimed seven precious stage points. He pitted for four tires during the stage caution on lap 213 and restarted 13th three laps later.

The final stage started well for Keselowski. He steadily worked his way through traffic and climbed inside the top-five by lap 237. He made his final pit stop on lap 274 then held off Kurt Busch down the stretch to claim a sixth-place finish.

Quote: “I’m glad we had a great run. I’m very much looking forward to Martinsville. I’m very proud of the team. We made a great pit call at the end of stage two that set us up for a great day and very proud of everybody on the Discount Tire team. We just need to have a solid day at Martinsville. The two cars in front of us are close in points. If we have a solid day, we’ll be just fine.”

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No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Start: 10th
Stage 1: 4th
Stage 2: 5th
Finish: 4th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 334/334
Laps Led: 20
Point Standings (behind first): 10th (-1886)

Notes:

Ryan Blaney finished fourth in a rain delayed Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway. The driver of the DEX Imaging Ford Mustang collected his 10th top-five finish of 2020 and led 20 laps in the event.

Blaney started 10th and made his way up to sixth by the early competition caution on lap 23. He would pit on lap 24 taking four tires and fuel along with a track bar adjustment and tape on the nose. Unfortunately, Blaney would have to return to pit road a lap later for loose lug nuts. Restarting 30th he would make his way back to 14th by lap 40 and seventh by lap 45.

Eventually the threating skies over Texas Motor Speedway opened and constant light precipitation over the next 72-plus hours forced the postponement of the race until Wednesday afternoon.

Blaney restarted in seventh position when racing resumed on lap 56. Battling a tight car in traffic, he would eventually drive his way up to fourth when Stage 1 was completed on lap 105.

Blaney would restart fifth when Stage 2 began on lap 110. A strong restart would move Blaney up to second place by lap 120. A caution on lap 135 would see Blaney take fuel only and tape on the nose of the DEX Imaging Ford Mustang. He would lead 20 of the next 21 laps before losing the lead to Martin Truex Jr. on lap 156. After falling back to third he would pit on lap 195 for routine service. Following the cycle of pit stops Blaney would come home in the fifth position in Stage 2.

Blaney would restart ninth after taking two left side tires during the stage break. He would fall back as low as 13th on lap 230, but slowly began to work his way back through the field. He was sixth on lap 240 and would get as high as third by lap 260. Blaney would make his final pit stop of the day on lap 277 and would cross the finish line in fourth at the end of the 500 miles.

Blaney is 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings heading to the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.

Quote: “We had a really fast DEX Imaging Ford Mustang. I think we had a car capable of running the top-three all day and managed to lead some laps. Todd (Gordon) and the team did a great job as always and we’ve been clicking off the strong runs each week lately. I’m looking forward to racing at Martinsville on Sunday.”

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No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Start: 2nd
Stage 1: 8th
Stage 2: 15th
Finish: 10th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 334/334
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (Behind First): 6th (-43) (Championship 4 Clinched)

Notes:

Joey Logano started second and finished 10th in Wednesday evening’s continuation of the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 22 AAA Ford Mustang. Logano was in the fourth position when rain halted the event on Sunday afternoon. Plagued by cold temperatures and persistent mist, the race was delayed over 72 hours before being completed Wednesday night.

During the opening laps of the first stage, Logano dealt with a slightly tight condition on corner entry, but the team elected to take only right-side tires and fuel under the competition caution at lap 24. The race was red flagged at lap 52 for rain, which remained in the area for over 72 hours before racing resumed on Wednesday evening.

After the racing resumed, Logano fired off loose in the AAA Ford Mustang but quickly swung to the tight side for the remainder of the first stage. Logano radioed the team with three laps remaining in the stage and reported that the right front tire may have been coming apart, resulting in him dropping from sixth to eighth. Logano would pit at lap 135 for four tires and a significant trackbar adjustment as the tight condition persisted.

Logano brought the AAA Ford Mustang to pit road at lap 200 under green flag conditions with the team again making a four-tire change and trackbar adjustment to help the tight condition. The four-tire stop allowed the team to remain on the track at the end of the second stage.

Through the opening half of the final stage, Logano continued to fight a tight condition, lacking overall turn. The team pitted at lap 270 for four tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment to the No. 22 AAA Ford Mustang. The handling improved throughout the remainder of the race, but a long green flag run kept Logano and the AAA Mustang trapped in the 10th position until the checkered flag.

Logano remains the only driver locked into the Championship 4 race as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the penultimate event of the season Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.

Quote: “I thought we were decent on Sunday. Today, we just fought tight the whole race. We made a ton of adjustments on the car and we never got it freed up. The good thing is we’re locked into Phoenix already, so we’ll go to Martinsville on Sunday, have some fun and try to win another clock.”


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