Track: Martinsville Speedway
Race: First Data 500
Date: October 27, 2019
No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 15th
Stage 2: 10th
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 0
Driver Point Standings: 9th (38 ahead of 10th-place)
- Brad Keselowski held off Denny Hamlin in the closing laps to score a third-place finish in the First Data 500 Sunday evening at Martinsville Speedway. Keselowski claimed his 13th top-five finish of the 2019 season and his ninth top-five in 20 starts at Martinsville. He sits ninth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 38 points ahead of 10th-place William Byron.
- Keselowski started 15th in the 500-lap race and was struggling with the balance on the Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang during Stage 1. He was losing time through the center of the corners, especially being too tight two-thirds of the way through the corner. He scored a 15th-place finish when the stage ended on lap 130. He pitted during the stage caution for four tires and air pressure adjustments and restarted 14th when the race went green on lap 139.
- As the laps ticked off early in Stage 2, the balance on the No. 2 Mustang improved. Keselowski said he was turning better in the both corners. He climbed back into the top-10 by lap 184 despite contact with Jimmie Johnson while leaving the pits under caution on lap 180. He was running eighth as Stage 2 entered its final laps. The fourth caution slowed the pace on lap 253, seven laps from the finish of the segment. Crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver to the pit lane during the yellow for four tires and air pressure adjustments. He restarted 10th on lap 257 and held firm to the position over the next three laps. Keselowski didn't pit during the stage caution and restarted ninth when the race went green on lap 268.
- During the final stage, Keselowski's Ford improved, and he steadily worked his way up the leaderboard. He said his Mustang was turning better as track cooled with the setting sun. Keselowski was up to eighth-place when he pitted under caution on lap 348 and during the next run the balance improved again. He was running sixth when the ninth caution on lap 450 set up the final round of stops. Keselowski took four tires and added a piece of tape to the nose of the No. 2 Mustang and restarted sixth on lap 455.
- From there the driver of the Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang made one final push to the front but it wasn't without a close call with teammate Ryan Blaney. Blaney blocked Keselowski as they raced for third on lap 468 and Keselowski nudged his teammate out the way in Turn 1. One corner later Keselowski got loose and gave Blaney room to make a clean pass for position. Keselowski made the pass for good on lap 481 and held off Hamlin in the final laps to claim his top-five finish.
"I think that's about all we had or maybe a little more than what we had. We just kind of kept our head on our shoulders all day and made the most of what we had. I was proud of our Alliance Truck Parts team for that effort. It was tough to pass. When you get behind somebody that you are way faster than, that big spoiler would just kill you. It was a good day for us. I had somebody right on my butt and Blaney came down to block and I couldn't let him in, and I about spun him out. And then I got to the other end and I about spun out and I was like, 'Just go, Blaney. I about spun you out last time.' My car ran better behind other cars, so that was it."
No. 12 Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 3rd
Stage 2: 3rd
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 6th (-45)
- Ryan Blaney began the NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 with a fifth-place finish in the First Data 500 at the Martinsville Speedway. This was his 10th top-five finish of 2019 and he now sits sixth NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 45 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. and 15 points behind fourth-place Joey Logano.
- Blaney started fifth and began working his way towards the front. He would drive up to third by lap 20 when the first caution of the day came out on lap 29. Blaney would pit on lap 30 for tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment. Strong service by the Menards crew allowed Blaney to restart second on when racing resumed on lap 34. His car would remain tight on throttle and he would eventually fall back to third behind Denny Hamlin. He would remain in the same spot until the end of the stage on lap 130, bringing home a third-place finish. Under the stage break crew chief Jeremy Bullins would call for major air pressure adjustment.
- Blaney would restart third when Stage 2 began on lap 139. A bad restart by Hamlin would put Blaney back to sixth place. A caution on lap 179, would bring the leaders back to pit road where the Menards crew would make another air pressure adjustment. Another strong pit stop by the No. 12 crew would gain Blaney three spots on pit road. He would pass Clint Bowyer for second on lap 236 and set his sights on Martin Truex Jr. for the race lead. The caution would fly on lap 253 for debris, just seven laps prior to the Stage 2 conclusion. Blaney would pit for tires, fuel and another wedge adjustment. Restarting third, he would battle Truex Jr. and Larson for the Stage victory, but in the end would settle for a third-place finish.
- Restarting third for the final stage on lap 268, Blaney would report that his car was the tightest it had been all day. He would fall back to fourth on lap 280 and remain in that position until a caution on lap 347. The Menards crew would take tires, fuel and a major wedge and air pressure adjustment reporting the car had no forward drive. Another strong pit stop got the High Point, N.C. native out from fourth to second place for the restart on lap 352.
- Restarting second and needing a long run, Blaney set his sights on leader Truex Jr., but would begin to receive pressure from William Byron. Blaney would make his final stop of the day under caution on lap 451 for tires, fuel and another wedge and air pressure adjustment.
- Even with multiple chassis and air pressure adjustments, the Menards Ford needed long runs, which simply didn't happen over the last 50 laps. Blaney would eventually lose spots to teammate Brad Keselowski and Hamlin late, coming home with a fifth-place finish.
"We were in the top five all day and I thought we had a good shot at second. We weren't good on short runs. We struggled for probably 30-40 laps and then we'd come alive and be great, but just didn't have the speed."
No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Stage 1: 5th
Stage 2: 4th
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 4th (-30)
- Joey Logano rallied back from a late-race incident with Denny Hamlin to score an eighth-place finish in the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Logano was squeezed into the wall off Turn 4 on lap 458 and spun out two laps later due to a cut tire. He made multiple pit stops during the caution for repairs but fought through traffic from deep in the field over the final 35 laps to score an eighth-place finish. The Shell-Pennzoil team is fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 14 points ahead of fifth-place Kevin Harvick.
- In the opening 20 laps, Logano reported the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang was fighting loose on both entry and exit around the tight half-mile at Martinsville, feeling like the lack of drive off was most hurting his overall lap times. The first caution on lap 29 brought Logano to pit road, where quick service by the No. 22 crew moved him up four spots for the restart on lap 34. Early in the run Logano reported the Shell-Pennzoil Ford was looser, however, 20 laps later he said the balance was improving and he began to move forward through the field.
- Logano was fifth when Stage 1 concluded on lap 130. He said his No 22 Shell-Pennzoil Mustang was loose early in a run but on a longer run the better he ran. During the early laps of the second stage, Logano slipped back through the field as the handling condition on his Mustang swung to the loose side. A pit stop during the third caution on lap 181 allowed the team to make wedge and air pressure changes looking to give Logano more security for the race to the end of the second stage. The fourth yellow on lap 253 set up another round of pit stops among the leaders. Logano survived the three-lap dash to end Stage 2, collecting a fourth-place finish. Crew chief Todd Gordon chose not to pit during the stage caution and Logano restarted third when the race went green on lap 268.
- On the restart, Logano moved around teammate Ryan Blaney and up to second. He slipped back to third by lap 325, reporting he was building tight through the center and snapping loose off. A caution flag on lap 347 set up another pit stop for the Shell-Pennzoil team where Gordon called for air pressure adjustments to correct Logano's tight condition.
- Logano drifted back to the fifth position as the laps began to wind down, struggling with his Mustang being too tight and having no rear grip. The ninth caution on lap 450 set up the team's final stop of the race. The group made a four-tire stop and their quick service on pit road moved Logano up to fourth position for the restart on lap 455.
- Three laps later Logano was squeezed into the wall off Turn 4 wall while racing Hamlin for position. The contact with Hamlin resulted in flat right-side tires and sheet metal damage and led to Logano's spin on which brought out the caution on lap 460. The No. 22 team made multiple stops during the caution for repairs so that their Ford Mustang to finish the race.
- Despite a wrinkled race car, Logano rallied during the closing laps to claim an eighth-place finish, his 18th top-10 of the season. Logano heads to Texas Motor Speedway fourth in the championship standings with a 14-point edge over fifth-place Kevin Harvick.
"We had a solid day on pit road and we were able to make some adjustments that at times had our Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang really competitive. I hate the fact that we took the damage late in the race because it spoiled a top-five day for my Shell-Pennzoil team. We'll go on to Texas and try to lock into Ford Championship weekend with a win."