Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Race: Bank of America ROVAL 400
Date: September 30, 2018
No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 14th
Stage 2: 21st
Laps Completed: 103/109
Laps Led: 29
Playoff Standings (behind leader): 4th (-30)
- Brad Keselowski saw his chance to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway evaporate just six laps from the finish on Sunday afternoon. Keselowski was the leader when the race went green on lap 104 following the seventh caution. As he and Martin Truex Jr. raced side-by-side for the lead entering the first corner, his No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion simply didn't turn, landing nose-first into the outside tire barrier. The heavy traffic following the restart created a chain reaction incident that collected a total of 15 cars and halted the race for nearly 15 minutes for track repair. He was credited with a 31st-place finish in the final rundown and is fourth in the MENCS driver standings, 30 points behind the leader.
- The frustrating turn of events in the race capped a rollercoaster weekend for Keselowski and the No. 2 team. They were strong in practice on Friday afternoon but a minor mechanical problem during qualifying gave him the 25th-place starting position. On Saturday, Keselowski had just ripped off the fast lap in final practice before tagging the wall, forcing him to a backup car for the race – and starting the 109-lap race from the rear of the field.
- When Stage 1 started, Keselowski methodically began working his way through the field. He was up to 24th position when he made a scheduled pit stop during the first caution on lap 15. Once the race went green, he continued to work his way forward. He reported that his No. 2 Ford Fusion was good everywhere but needed forward drive off Turns 3 and 8. Keselowski finished the opening segment of the race in 14th position when the stage ended on lap 25. He stayed on the track during the stage caution and lined up seventh when the race went green on lap 29.
- During Stage 2 Keselowski worked his way up to second position when he made a scheduled green flag stop for four tires and adjustments on lap 39. Solid work by the No. 2 pit crew kept him with race leaders Kyle Larson and Truex Jr. during the cycle of green flag stops. Keselowski spun on lap 48 while attempting to pass Truex Jr. for position through Turns 16 and 17. He quickly recovered and was credited with a 21st-place finish when the stage ended on lap 50. Keselowski pitted during the stage caution on lap 52 for four tires and air pressure adjustments plus hasty repairs to the left-rear of his ca and restarted 36th when the final stage began on lap 54.
- Two cautions early in Stage 3 gave Keselowski the chance to contend for the victory. He pitted on lap 60 for four tires and repairs to his left rear. Another caution on lap 67 gave him the chance to pit for tires and fuel – and perhaps get him to the end of the race. Keselowski restarted 29th but once again slicked his way through traffic. He moved up to fourth-place when most of the leader pitted for tires and fuel on lap 70 and grabbed the lead on lap 75. From there, Keselowski was tasked with keeping the lead all while trying to stretch his fuel mileage to the max. He was doing well at both, fending off a serious challenge from Kyle Larson as the race neared the 90-lap mark. But on lap 103 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out the seventh caution and just one lap later Keselowski's chances to win were gone.
Quote: "I really have to give a lot of credit to Paul Wolfe and everyone on this Alliance Truck Parts Ford team because this car was a rocket. I wrecked in practice and we unloaded this car just for the race and it was screaming fast. I thought we were going to win today. It just didn't come together. The whole field went down into Turn 1 it and looked like we all went straight. Maybe we all overdrove it, maybe the track had something on it, I don't know. I got in the corner. I got into the corner hard, but not like ridiculously hard and it just locked up. I couldn't get the tire to unlock, so I felt really, really dumb when I hit the wall and then I got back in the care center and saw the replay and saw everybody kind of did the same thing. I don't know. It's frustrating."
No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 10th
Stage 2: 1st
Laps Completed: 109/109
Laps Led: 16
Playoff Standings (behind first): 8th (-42)
- Ryan Blaney scored his first Cup Series victory with Team Penske in the inaugural Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The win was his second victory in 119 MENCS races.
- Blaney started ninth in the 109-lap event and on lap six, the driver of the Menards/Pennzoil Ford Fusion reported that he was fighting rear grip issues over the course of the run. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins advised Blaney conserve his tires over the 17-turn road-course.
- Bullins called Blaney to pit road for their first scheduled stop of the race on lap 14 for an air pressure adjustment as Blaney reported he needed more rear grip and that he was tight everywhere. He made a late charge to the front over the final laps of Stage 1 to score a 10th-place finish and collect a valuable stage point. The team chose not to pit during the stage caution and Blaney restarted in the top five when the race went green on lap 29.
- Throughout Stage 2, the leaders who hadn't yet visited pit road began making their first stops of the afternoon. Blaney cycled into the lead on lap 37 and held off a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson – who also had the advantage of fresher tires than Blaney – to win the stage, his sixth stage win of the 2018 season. Bullins decided to bring Blaney to pit road during the stage caution on lap 52 for chassis and air pressure adjustments to the No. 12 Ford in an effort to give Blaney needed grip. He restarted outside the top 15 when the race went green on lap 54.
- The Menards/Pennzoil team brought Blaney to pit road under green on lap 70, inside the window to making it to the end of the race on fuel. Afterwards, Blaney got into a spirited battle with Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer - all three of which were fighting to make it into the Round of 12.
- A caution flag with eight laps remaining changed the complexity of the race. On the restart, Blaney received slight right-front damage in the aftermath of a 15-car pileup in Turn 1. Bullins and the team chose to keep Blaney on the track as points and track position were at a premium.
- When the race went back green on lap 104, Blaney fought his way into the top-three behind leader Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. Coming to the final corner, Johnson, in a last-ditch effort to win the race, slid into Truex Jr., causing both cars to spin within sight of the finish line. Blaney avoided the incident and beat Jamie McMurray to the finish line to win, his first victory of the 2018 season.
- Blaney enters the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs sixth in the Cup Series standings and claimed the 501st victory for Team Penske.
Quote: "We restarted sixth the last one there and got to third with a couple of laps to go. I was really just riding there in third. We were good to go on points and was going to advance to the next round on points. They were so far ahead I wasn't even really trying to catch them and then I saw them close to each other through the oval track and I was like, ‘Oh, something might happen here.' I went down in there, they touched and I was lucky to sneak through there. I'd rather go out and dominate the race and win by a lap, but you've got to take them how you can get them. We put ourselves in position. We did a great job all day of winning a stage and putting us in a good spot for points. It just worked out for us."
No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion – Joey Logano
Stage 1: 15th
Stage 2: 4th
Laps Completed: 109/109
Laps Led: 0
Playoff Standings (behind first): 6th (-41)
- Joey Logano started 15th in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion in Sunday afternoon's inaugural 400 kilometer race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL . On lap 4, Logano reported the handling on the Shell-Pennzoil Ford was building looser over the course of the opening laps, while also trying to maintain and run a smart race.
- On the first pit stop of the race at lap 14, crew chief Todd Gordon elected to make an air pressure adjustment as Logano reported he needed more rear grip around the track. The driver of the Shell-Pennzoil Ford also said he was fighting loose everywhere, with the exception of turn 8 where he was extremely tight. Logano would finish the stage in 15th position, reporting that the handling hadn't improved after the adjustments.
- At the end of the first stage, the team elected to remain on the track with Logano cycling to the eighth position as other cars pitted. Throughout the stage, the leaders who hadn't visited pit road during the race, began making their first stops of the afternoon, cycling Logano to the second position before settling back in to the fourth spot before the stage 2 caution was displayed.
- During the stage 2 break, the Shell-Pennzoil crew elected to pit, making front air pressure adjustments to the No. 22 Ford, looking to give Logano the turn he needed to advance through the field. With the strategies split throughout the 40-cars, the team would line up in the 24th position after finishing the second stage in fourth.
- The Shell-Pennzoil crew elected to pit again at lap 69 as they approached the window of making it to the end of the race on fuel. Crew chief Todd Gordon elected to make an additional air pressure adjustment on the stop, and reminded Logano to save fuel throughout the race as they'd be only three laps short of going the distance.
- Logano rode most of the final stage in fuel saving mode, but a caution flag with eight laps remaining changed the complexity of the race. Crew chief Todd Gordon elected to bring Logano to pit road for four tires and allow the Shell-Pennzoil team to go on the offensive for the closing laps.
- Logano and the Shell-Pennzoil team were able to survive a chaotic ending to the inaugural ROVAL, securing a 10th place finish and a berth into the Round of 12 which begins next week in Dover, DE.
Quote: "I feel good about it. I feel like we can fight through these next few weeks and get to the next round and keep forging forward. We have to stay consistent. We have to stay solid like we've been. It's going to take more and more each round to get through, but we knocked out some pretty solid cars in this round, so we have to keep racing hard. It's going to get harder every time, so I feel good about it. I feel like it's going to be tight. I don't feel like we're where we were a couple years ago, where we felt really solid about it, but I feel decent enough that we can transfer."