Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Atlanta 1

AMBETTER HEALTH 400 – ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Hampton, Ga. – February 25, 2024
Atlanta Motor Speedway Oval Decal

AUSTIN CINDRIC No. 2 MENARDS/KNAUF INSULATION FORD MUSTANG

START: 8TH STAGE ONE: 18TH STAGE TWO: 1ST FINISH: 4TH POINTS: 3RD

RACE RUNDOWN: Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 2 Menards/Knauf Insulation Ford Mustang, orchestrated an impressive run in Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400, leading 32 laps en route to his first top-five finish of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season with a fourth-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Among a contingent of fast Fords in qualifying, Cindric took the initial green flag from the eighth position. Under caution on Lap 25, Cindric alerted the No. 2 team a really loose condition on the Menards/Kanuf Ford Mustang. Crew chief Brian Wilson called Cindric to pit road for two right-side tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Cindric restarted 17th, but continued to face a loose condition behind the wheel of his Ford Mustang. He returned to pit road under caution on Lap 53 for four fresh tires and additional adjustments for the one-lap sprint to conclude Stage 1. After staying out at the Stage break, the 25-year-old racer fired off from the ninth position to kick off the second segment, and cycled to the race lead following the pit sequence on Lap 139 with teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney in tow. Cindric maintained his place atop the leaderboard, claiming the win in Stage 2, the third Stage win of his Cup Series career. After another trip down pit lane for a four-tire service stop, Cindric jetted off from the 10th position for the beginning of the final segment on Lap 171. With 50 laps remaining, Cindric made a glorious four-wide move to take the lead, charging to the point of the pack. The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion survived multiple cautions late in the Stage, and lined up fifth for the final restart with five laps to go, ultimately recording a strong fourth-place finish. Cindric currently sits third in the point standings heading into the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

CINDRIC’S THOUGHTS: “It’s really unfortunate to have two weeks in a row where I feel like Team Penske has brought three of the best race cars to the racetrack and not come home with a win. Obviously, we got really close with the 12. It was fun to lead laps and win the stage. I got in a real tight aero spot while I was following Ryan [Blaney] and washed up the track a bit. He was, honestly, in a really tough spot with the runs that were coming from behind. I thought he was going to be able to hold on, but the first win for the Mustang Dark Horse has to wait another race, but I’m really proud of the effort. It should be a really great points day for us, so that puts us on the right side of things heading into Vegas.”

RYAN BLANEY No. 12 BODYARMOR ZERO SUGAR FORD MUSTANG

START: 6TH STAGE ONE: 2ND STAGE TWO: 3RD FINISH: 2ND POINTS: 5TH

RACE RUNDOWN: Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 BODYARMOR Zero Sugar Ford Mustang came up one spot short in what was the third-closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway as Blaney, Kyle Busch, and race-winner Daniel Suárez crossed the finish line three-wide. Ultimately, the photo finish had Blaney scored second by 0.003 seconds as he secured his fifth-career top-five finish at Atlanta while leading 31 laps on the day. Blaney put together a strong points day in the 400-mile event with finishes of second and third in the first two stages, respectively. After avoiding a multi-car incident in turn four that unraveled right in front of him to bring out the caution on lap 219, Blaney and teammate Austin Cindric forged their way to the front using the top lane as BODYARMOR Zero Sugar Ford Mustang took the lead with 30 laps to go. The final caution of the night flew with 12 to go with Blaney scored second in the running order at the last timing loop, resetting the field to take the green with five laps remaining. After restarting from the outside of row one, Blaney powered his way past the No. 99 of Suárez on the backstretch and began to protect the runs from both lanes behind him as the laps ticked off. On the final lap, Blaney led the field into turn three as a three-wide battle formed in the center of the corner with all three vying for the win coming into the trioval. Blaney held his line down low as no one had a clear advantage at the line, but he ultimately came up inches short of his second-career win at Atlanta.

BLANEY’S THOUGHTS: “What a cool finish. Appreciate the fans for sticking around. That’s a lot of fun. That’s always a good time when we can do that, race a clean, three-wide finish to the end. Proud of the BODYARMOR Zero Sugar team. This Ford Mustang was fast. I can’t complain; I’ve won them by very, very little, too, so I can’t complain too much when I lose them by that much.”

JOEY LOGANO No. 22 SHELL-PENNZOIL FORD MUSTANG

START: 2ND STAGE ONE: 12TH STAGE TWO: 28TH FINISH: 28TH POINTS: 33RD

RACE RUNDOWN: After starting at the tail-end of the field and serving a pass-through penalty on the opening lap Sunday stemming from a rules infraction assessed by NASCAR prior to the start of the Ambetter Health 400, Joey Logano and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil team managed to stay on the lead lap when a multi-car incident in the trioval unfolded while Logano was on pit road. While the caution allowed crew chief Paul Wolfe to take on an alternate fuel strategy, Logano raced his way into the top-10 by lap 50 before crossing the line 12th at the conclusion of Stage 1. Wolfe kept Logano on track while a majority of the leaders pitted at the stage break, allowing the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang to restart from the outside of row one before making the pass for the lead out of turn four on lap 99 – the first of 27 laps Logano led on the afternoon. He and teammate Ryan Blaney began the green flag pit cycle on lap 127 with fuel-only stops before the Team Penske trio took over the top three spots in the running order at the completion of the cycle with the laps winding down in Stage 2. On the final lap of the stage, Logano made contact with the No. 17 off the exit of turn two and sustained significant right-front damage after getting turned into the outside wall. Logano made several trips to pit road as the No. 22 team worked to make repairs, allowing him to rejoin the field eight laps down en route to a 28th-place finish.

LOGANO’S THOUGHTS: “Yeah, I just made a mistake. I thought I could fill the gap in front of the 17 coming off turn two and once I realized I couldn’t get up there, I tried turning back down but once it started packing air on my right rear I couldn’t turn down. I got tight and it got me in the wall.”

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Pennzoil 400 on Sunday, March 3. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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