Track: Daytona Road Course
Race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona
Date: February 21, 2021
No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 4th
Stage 2: 28th
Laps Completed: 70/70
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 10th (-40)
- Brad Keselowski grabbed his first top-five finish of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with a fifth-place effort Sunday evening on the Daytona Road Course. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford claimed his best finish in two starts at the 3.61-mile layout and gained six positions in the Cup Series driver standings, moving up to 10th-place, 40 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
- A fortunate turn of events in the closing laps of Stage 1 put him in position to score stage points. Keselowski was running just outside the top-10 when he locked up his front tires while racing Ross Chastain on lap 11 and he missed the frontstretch chicane. Keselowski pitted immediately for four tires and moments later the second caution waved, which allowed Keselowski to make up the lost distance. He restarted second when the race went green on lap 13 and finished fourth when the Stage 1 ended three laps later. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the call to pit for four tires during the stage caution and Keselowski restarted 15th on lap 19.
- Any chance for a good finish looked dim in Stage 2. Keselowski was up to 11th-place when he missed the bus stop chicane on lap 26, which cost him three positions. He stayed out during the fourth caution and restarted in fourth position on lap 29, a strategic move by Bullins to save a set of tires for the second half of the race. Keselowski struggled on the restart with his older tires and was credited with a 28th-place finish when the stage ended on lap 34. Bullins made the call to pit for four tires during the stage caution and Keselowski restated 26th when the race went green on lap 37.
- The third and final stage saw Keselowski rally from a spin on lap 41 to fight his way into contention late in the event. From there the driver of the No. 2 Ford Mustang steadily worked his way from 38th position through the field. Keselowski was up to 12th when he made his final stop under green on lap 55. Two laps later the sixth caution was displayed, and this time Bullins kept his driver on the track. Keselowski restarted sixth on lap 58 and survived two more cautions and each chaotic restart that followed to score a fifth-place finish.
Quotes: "It was a front, back, front, back kind of race, but the Discount Tire team, we just didn't give up and kept working on it. Eventually, the race came to us. We caught some breaks for sure and made the most of it. It was just one of those never-give-up kind of races. We just fought and fought and fought. But, in the end, just a lot of perseverance, a lot of heart, a lot of will from the entire team and that put us in a good spot there at the end, so I tried to make the most of it."
No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 14th
Stage 2: 15th
Laps Completed: 70/70
Laps Led: 0
Final Point Standings (behind first): 19th (-70)
- Ryan Blaney started 27th and finished 15th in Sunday's race on the Daytona Road Course. The driver of the Menards/Libman Ford Mustang battled an ill-handling Ford Mustang and lack of track position to bring home a top-15 finish. Blaney now sits 19th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, 70 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
- Blaney started 27th and made his way up to 17th by his first pit stop on lap 12. He would report to crew chief Todd Gordon that he was struggling with braking, center turn, and drive off the corners. Once racing resumed with two laps remaining in Stage 1, Blaney would make his way up to 14th. He would pit again on lap 17, taking four tires and an air pressure adjustment.
- Blaney would begin Stage 2 from the 23rd position. He would work his way up to 19th by the fourth caution of the day on lap 28. Blaney pitted for new tires and an air pressure adjustment during the yellow and used those new tires to make his way to up 15th at the conclusion of Stage 2 on lap 34.
- The driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang began the final stage of the race from the 16th position on lap 37. Eight laps later a tire rub forced Blaney to make an unscheduled pit stop. Still battling the same handling issues much of the day, the Todd Gordon led crew opted for a longer pit stop on lap 57 to make significant changes to the Menards/Libman Ford. Restarting 31st on lap 60 Blaney would avoid late race carnage to bring home a 15th-place finish.
Quote: "It was a tough day for our Menards/Libman Ford Mustang team. We struggled with the balance and having to start 27th was a heck of a hole to begin with. Todd Gordon and this No. 12 team never gave up working on this Mustang and we brought home a top-15 finish. I'm looking forward to racing at Homestead next week."
No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Stage 1: 2nd
Stage 2: 3rd
Laps Completed: 70/70
Laps Led: 10
Point Standings (behind first): 2nd (-12)
- Joey Logano started 11th and finished second in Sunday's race on the Daytona Road Course. Logano led 10 of the final 11 laps before being passed by the No. 20 of Christopher Bell, who had six-lap fresher tires, on the last lap. The Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang team scored 17 stage points on the afternoon with finishes of second and third respectively in the opening two segments.
- Logano moved the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang into the top-five in the opening laps, riding in third reporting that he was losing a little bit of rear grip through the run. A caution would set up pit stops prior to the end of the first stage, with Logano receiving four tires and an air pressure adjustment. He finished second when Stage 1 ended on lap 16.
- In the second stage, Logano pitted once for four tires and an air pressure change, working his way back into the top-five. He ultimately finished Stage 2 in third position. At the stage ending stop, Logano reported he needed the rear grip to maintain longer through the run, which prompted crew chief Paul Wolfe to make air pressure and trackbar adjustments.
- Logano ran inside the top-five until slipping to the seventh position with 20 laps remaining, just before the potential final stop of the race. On lap 51, the driver of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford pitted for four tires, fuel, tape on the nose and a trackbar adjustment. A caution on lap 57 packed the field up following the green flag pit stops when a small pop-up shower moved over the speedway. Logano cycled into the lead as many of the race leaders hit pit road for tires.
- The driver of the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang was able to hold the lead through two late-race restarts but ultimately finished second after being passed by eventual race winner Christopher Bell on the final lap.
Quotes: "I was trying to keep him (Bell) behind me. We gambled by staying out and I'd say it paid off overall, but you just hate being so close. He started catching me a second a lap and it wasn't like I blew any corners or anything. We just got beat, plain and simple. We've got to get our long run speed faster. We made some gains and have gotten better with our Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. We've just got to be able to find a way to keep our rear tires on these things on the road courses. We've identified the issue, now we can go to work."