Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Phoenix Raceway
Race: Instacart 500
Date: March 14, 2021
No. 2 WURTH Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 3rd
Stage 2: 4th
Laps Completed: 312/312
Laps Led: 19
Point Standings (behind first): 2nd (-39)
- Brad Keselowski scored a fourth-place finish Sunday afternoon in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway. The driver of the WURTH Ford Mustang claimed his third top-five finish in five races during the 2021 season. Keselowski is second in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 39 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
- Keselowski started from the pole and took the lead for the first time on lap 34. He led the next 10 laps, but couldn’t quite find the correct balance on the WURTH Ford and needed better drive off the corners to challenge for the lead. Keselowski held off Denny Hamlin in the final laps of the segment to score a third-place finish when Stage 1 concluded. He made a four-tire stop during the stage caution and restarted fifth when the race went green on lap 83.
- In Stage 2, Keselowski ran among the top-five but needed his Mustang to improve on corner entry and drive off. The No. 2 crew made several adjustments during a pit stop under green on lap 140, but were not able to make a sizable gain. He passed teammate Ryan Blaney on the final lap of the segment to grab a fourth-place finish in Stage 2. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins called for four tires and another round of adjustments during the stage break on lap 190 with Keselowski lining up fifth for the restart.
- The hard work by Bullins and the WURTH team showed during the final stage as the balance on the No. 2 Mustang improved. The seventh and final caution on lap 283 set up a chaotic restart where Keselowski, who restarted third, grabbed the lead. Unfortunately, the No. 2 Mustang was unable to stay up front. Keselowski fell in line fourth and held off Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson down the stretch to claim his top-five finish.
Quote: “Not a bad day for our WURTH Ford Mustang. We were just really consistent and ran inside the top-five all day. We got the lead there towards the end on that one restart and I thought ‘Oh, man, we’re going to drive away’ and I just wasn’t quite fast enough. We tried some things to try to be better for the fall and I don’t know if they were necessarily better so a lot to learn.”
No. 12 Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 1st (First stage win of 2021)
Stage 2: 5th
Laps Completed: 312/312
Laps Led: 35
Point Standings (behind first): 13th (-102)
- Ryan Blaney started eighth and finished 10th in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway. The driver of the Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang won Stage 1 and led 35 laps on the day. Blaney now sits 13th in the Cup Series standings, 102 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
- Blaney started eighth and made his way up to the fourth position by the lap 30 competition caution. He reported to crew chief Todd Gordon that he was a little loose on throttle. Blaney would pit on lap 33, taking four tires and an air pressure adjustment.
- Restarting second, Blaney would battle teammate Brad Keselowski for the top spot in a spirited battle. He would eventually prevail, taking the lead on lap 44 and hold onto the top spot through the stage conclusion on lap 75. It was Blaney’s first stage win of 2021. He would pit under the stage break, taking four tires and additional air pressure adjustment to help for the center turn lost.
- Blaney would begin Stage 2 from the second position. He would remain there until Kyle Larson passed him for the runner-up spot on lap 127. Still fighting loose on entry Blaney would finish Stage 2 in the fifth position.
- Blaney began the final stage of the race from the fourth position and would move up to third on lap 201. As the run progressed, the Menards/Richmond Ford would begin to chatter the front tires and he fell back to seventh. Blaney would pit under green on lap 249 for significant adjustments. The race would see two cautions in the final 49 laps and Blaney would pit both times for additional changes. He’d fall as low as 13th, but managed to work his way back to 10th when the checkered flag waved.
Quote: “Towards the end of the day I think the track kind of changed on us and we lost some speed. We were fighting stuff that we weren’t fighting at the beginning and other guys’ cars came to life and we were kind of chasing ours a little bit. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. We tried a bunch of stuff and tried to get ahead of the track and just couldn’t quite get there. For how much speed we lost throughout the day just with track changes, running 10th I’m proud of that. I’m proud of Todd (Gordon) and everybody on this Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang for sticking with it all day and good stage points for sure and not a bad finish.”
No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang
Stage 1: 2nd
Stage 2: 1st (First stage win of 2021)
Laps Completed: 312/312
Laps Led: 143
Point Standings (behind first): 3rd (-44)
- Joey Logano started ninth and finished second, leading a race-high 143 laps on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, the second top-five of the season for the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Mustang Ford Mustang. Logano also scored the Stage 2 victory that’s to solid pit work by the No. 22 Ford crew, which kept Logano at the front of the field throughout the 500-kilometer race.
- After starting ninth, Logano climbed inside the top-five prior to the early competition caution, reporting he needed additional rear grip in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. At the caution, crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to adjust with air pressure and a trackbar adjustment. Logano finished the first stage in the second position behind teammate Ryan Blaney.
- Quick pit work by the Shell-Pennzoil crew would hand Logano the lead to open the second stage. Logano would lead the majority of the second stage, outside of the green flag pit cycle where the team adjusted the handling with a slight stagger change. Logano would continue to lead, winning his first stage of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
- In the opening laps of the third stage, Logano reported he was fighting a slight free-in and free-off condition, similar to comments he made earlier in the race while in clean air. A few laps prior to the planned green flag pit stop, Logano reported that he’d picked up a severe vibration in the car, forcing the team to start the cycle of stops early.
- A yellow-flag stop with 45 laps remaining would allow the Shell-Pennzoil crew to once again showcase their speed in the pits, sending Logano from fifth to the lead leaving pit road. On the restart, Logano would drift to second behind teammate Brad Keselowski as the laps began clicking away. Another caution flag with 30 laps remaining would bring the field to pit road yet again with the Shell-Pennzoil crew getting him out first one more time.
- Logano would get pinned to the bottom lane on the race’s final restart and ultimately finish in the second position.
Quote: “We did a good job maximizing our day with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. We were a second-place car and finished second, won a stage and second in the other stage, so a lot of points. I hate finishing second, though. It really stinks, but, overall, this has been a good racetrack for us. The last few times we’ve been here is first, third and second, so we’re all over it, just needed that last run not to have a caution. I think we were in a pretty good spot to maybe run that thing out, but, overall, that was where we had it.”