(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)
Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report
Track: Auto Club Speedway
Race: Auto Club 400
Date: March 26, 2017
No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion – Brad Keselowski
Laps Completed: 202/202
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind leader): 4th (-64)
Recap: Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion team dug themselves out of an early hole to finish second in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The finish is Keselowski’s fourth-consecutive, top-five finish to start the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. After starting the race from the third position, Keselowski’s day got off to an unenviable start on the first lap. Pole winner Denny Hamlin spun his tires to start the race, stacking up the field behind him that resulted in Keselowski receiving rear damage from the No. 31 of Ryan Newman. After falling through the field Keselowski was hit from behind again, this time by the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson and spun through the infield grass to bring out a caution. From there the Wurth team fought their way back from the 39th position to enter the top 10 at lap 105 on the strength of fast pit stops and solid adjustments by crew chief Brian Wilson. Keselowski crossed the finish line in that same position at the end of the second, 60-lap stage to score one bonus point. From there the team was finally back on equal footing with the rest of the field, allowing Keselowski to race hard for a solid finish. He worked his way inside the top five just as the final caution flag of the day flew at lap 197, setting up an overtime finish. In a scenario similar to his 2015 ACS win, Keselowski came down pit road for four fresh tires and tape added to the nose of the Ford. Another fast pit stop saw the 2012 MENCS champion restart from the third position at lap 201, and he was able to maneuver his way into the runner-up spot at the end of the event.
Quote: “I don’t know if we had anything for Kyle and those guys. The Wurth Ford was torn up pretty bad. To get that kind of finish is respectable. Certainly we want to win. I felt like we had a shot to do just that. It just didn’t come together. That’s the way it goes sometimes when you have a 36‑race season. You’re going to have some adversity and days that don’t go your way. That’s the way it was for us today. But we made the most of it, so I’m proud of my guys.
No. 22 Auto Club of Southern California Ford Fusion – Joey Logano
Laps Completed: 202/202
Laps Led: 1
Point Standings: 5th (-69)
Recap: Joey Logano rallied through the field on Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway, bringing the No. 22 Auto Club of Southern California Ford Fusion home in the fifth position after starting 35th. Logano and the No. 22 team were forced to start deep in the field on Sunday after missing qualifying on Friday afternoon. While the 35th starting position was certainly a disadvantage to begin the 400-mile race, Logano wasted no time putting his sticker Goodyear tires to use, passing 13 cars in the first lap and driving to the 14th position by lap 4 when the first caution flag of the event was displayed. Crew chief Todd Gordon elected to bring the Auto Club of Southern California Fusion to pit road with the rest of the leaders for four fresh tires. On the ensuing restart, Logano used the short-run superiority of his Ford to his advantage, cracking the top-10 for the first time at lap 10. The team would pit for the second time at lap 35 under green flag conditions setting up the run to the end of the first stage and a seventh place result. Gordon would again call the No. 22 to the pits for air pressure adjustments and four fresh tires. Logano would continue to struggle on the longer runs, which were prevalent in Sunday’s race, citing a loss of rear grip around 15 laps into a run. Despite the long run struggles, through their adjustments the team found incremental gains to improving the handling of the No. 22 Ford. The team continued to run inside the top-10 until the restart following the stage 2 completion point. Logano made a tremendous save as his car got extremely loose at the exit of Turn 4, however, the save cost valuable momentum dropping the team to the 17th position where they would again have to battle back. Through multiple late race restarts, Logano was able to utilize the remaining sets of sticker tires to his advantage, bringing the No. 22 Auto Club of Southern California Ford home in the fifth position. The finish was the second top-5 for the team in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, and kept them secure in the fifth position in the series point standings.
Quote: “It was up-and-down for sure. Our car was really good on the short runs just like yesterday. Our car was good on the short runs and not good on the long runs. We would lose too much time. We tried to short pit them and got caught with the caution and got stuck down a lap with 20 to go or so. We were able to recover and at one point I thought we were gonna win the race and had some trouble on pit road and lost some spots again, but we were able to make some of them back up and end up with a top-5 out of it with the Auto Club Fusion. It was up-and-down to say the least for the whole weekend for me.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!