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Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report – Gateway

Enjoy Illinois 300 – World Wide Technology Raceway
Madison, IL – June 2, 2024

AUSTIN CINDRIC No. 2 FREIGHTLINER FORD MUSTANG

START: 2ND STAGE ONE: 4TH STAGE TWO: 2ND FINISH: 1ST POINTS: 18TH

RACE RUNDOWN: Teamwork, determination and patience are just three of the keys to success, and that’s what it took Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway as Austin Cindric and the No. 2 Freightliner Ford Mustang team orchestrated a remarkable performance that culminated with a trip to victory lane, marking the second NASCAR Cup Series win of Cindric’s career. The 2022 DAYTONA 500 winner fired off from the second position after narrowly missing out on the pole in Saturday’s time trials and remained a frontrunner throughout the opening Stage. Cindric reported early on that he was fighting a loose condition and a lack of stability on entry. After finishing a strong fourth in the opening segment, the Team Penske driver made his way to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and a swing of air pressure adjustments to aid the handling of the Freightliner Ford Mustang. Multiple cars stayed out and did not pit, leading Cindric to restart outside the top 10 on Lap 55. He quickly charged back inside the top 10 and shortly after reported that the handling of the car had improved. In the midst of green flag pit stops, Cindric cycled to the lead and remained there until he returned to pit road on Lap 112 when the No. 4 triggered the caution. With a four-tire stop on deck, Cindric returned to the track and restarted fifth with just over 20 laps remaining in Stage 2, ultimately climbing to finish second. The No. 2 team elected to stay out and Cindric restarted as the leader, choosing the outline lane. With the speed of Team Penske on full display, Cindric and teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano occupied the top three positions at one point in the Stage ahead of the final pit cycle. The former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion made his final trip to pit road with 63 laps go to and remained in contention for the win as the final laps clicked away, ultimately securing the checkered flag for his first Cup Series win since a historic triumph in the 2022 Great American Race. While the Gateway victory marked the first win for Brian Wilson as a Cup Series crew chief, it also serves as his 50th win as a crew member on a Team Penske entry in NASCAR.

CINDRIC’S THOUGHTS: “Honestly, I’m heartbroken for the 12 team. I don’t know what happened to them at the end of the race, but they deserved to win this race. Ryan has been a hell of a leader on this team. This weekend was a great weekend for everybody involved. To have two cars in the fight and an eventual one-two there, like I said, I’m heartbroken for those guys, but this is huge for me. This is huge for this team. I’m so glad I was able to get a win with Brian (Wilson) as my crew chief in the Cup Series. You never know when it’s gonna happen again. I just drove my butt off and hoped for the best.”

RYAN BLANEY No. 12 MENARDS/RICHMOND FORD MUSTANG

START: 3RD STAGE ONE: 3RD STAGE TWO: 3RD FINISH: 24TH POINTS: 12TH

RACE RUNDOWN: Ryan Blaney came up one lap short of taking the checkered flag Sunday at Gateway as the No. 12 Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang ran out of fuel coming to the white flag, resulting in a 24th-place finish. Blaney led twice for 20 laps and picked up a pair of third-place stage finishes in the 300-mile event as the 12-team’s strategy nearly came to fruition. After starting from the inside of row two, Blaney was part of a three-car breakaway at the front of the field during the first long, green flag run of the day to secure a third-place finish in Stage 1. Following a four-tire stop and a round of adjustments at the stage break, Blaney lined up to restart 14th as teams began to vary their strategies in anticipation for another long run. Blaney battled his way back into the top-10 just 25 laps into the segment despite a loose-handling condition starting to set in. Crew chief Jonathan Hassler opted to run long instead of split the stage in half as Blaney moved all the way up to second in the running order by the time the caution flag flew on lap 112. After a four-tire stop and another round of adjustments, Blaney restarted from seventh with 21 laps to go in Stage 2 before fighting his way up to third by the end of the segment. Blaney remained on the track during the stage break as the Team Penske Fords lined up 1-2-3 for the start of the final segment. While running second, Blaney was called to pit road on lap 175 for the final stop of the afternoon before cycling to fifth in the running order with 30 laps to go. With the pit cycle nearing completion, Blaney was locked into a battle with the No. 20 for what would eventually be the race lead at the end of the green flag cycle. Blaney found success running the high line in the corners to fend off any potential runs to his inside before stretching out his lead to over a second with 18 laps remaining. While leading coming to the white flag, Blaney was off the pace coming out of turn four as the Menards/Richmond Ford ran out of fuel, culminating in a 24th-place finish.

BLANEY’S THOUGHTS: “I never thought in my mind we were short. It’s one of those things. I’m proud of the 12 boys. The Menards/Richmond Ford was fast. I had my work cut out for me holding off Christopher [Bell]. That was fun. I don’t know what happened to him, but just one lap short. That stinks, but congrats to the 2 team. They did a good job all day. Props to them and Austin [Cindric]. I’m proud for Team Penske and Ford. I’m really happy with our showing today. I don’t know what I’ve got to do to get some luck on our side. I’ve wrecked the last two points races and thought we had a great shot to win today and I ended up bad, so I just appreciate the effort. We just have to keep sticking with it.”

JOEY LOGANO No. 22 SHELL-PENNZOIL FORD MUSTANG

START: 12TH STAGE ONE: 9TH STAGE TWO: 6TH FINISH: 5TH POINTS: 16TH

RACE RUNDOWN: Joey Logano posted his third top-five finish in three Cup Series starts at Gateway Sunday afternoon, coming away with a fifth-place result. Logano worked his way into the top-10 early in the opening stage after starting 12th despite a loose-handling condition to cross the line ninth in Stage 1. Following a four-tire stop at the stage break, Logano lined up to restart 18th as teams began to vary their strategies. Crew chief Paul Wolfe opted to run long as opposed to splitting the second stage, allowing Logano to climb the leaderboard all the way to fourth. The caution flag flew on lap 112 and Logano brought the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to pit road for four tires as the field lined up to restart with 21 laps to go in the second segment. Logano powered his way through traffic to reach the top-five with ten laps to go in the stage before settling for a sixth-place finish in Stage 2. The Team Penske Fords lined up 1-2-3 for the start of the final stage as Logano managed his tires over the long green flag run before hitting pit road for the final time on lap 177 from the lead during the cycle. He made his way back on the lead lap with 47 laps to go before making his way back into the top-10 with 23 laps remaining as the pit cycle continued to shuffle the field. The race stayed green the rest of the way as Logano continued to make his way to the front before ultimately crossing the line fifth for his second top-five finish of the season.

LOGANO’S THOUGHTS: “We weren’t too far off. We were just a few adjustments away of getting our Shell-Pennzoil Mustang as good as our teammates were, but not too bad. We were able to grab some points, which we need to do, and a Penske car got in Victory Lane, so you’ve got to be happy about that. Obviously, we’d rather it be us, but that momentum goes through the whole shop. It’s still a good day. We still scored a bunch of points today with stage points in both stages. A poor qualifying effort, which probably hurt us a little bit on tuning the car and just a little too loose off.”

The NASCAR Cup Series heads west to the newly-repaved Sonoma Raceway for the second of five road course races on the 2024 schedule. The 110-lap event on Sunday, June 9, begins coverage at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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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