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Team Penske NASCAR Cup Series Race Report - Darlington
September 3, 2023



START: 14TH    
FINISH: 31ST    
RACE RUNDOWN: Austin Cindric was seemingly destined for a strong result in Sunday's Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway until being involved in an incident that ultimately caused the Discount Tire Ford Mustang to go down multiple laps, leaving the driver with a 31st-place finish. Showing solid pace during Saturday's on-track activities, Cindric fired off from the 14th position for his second appearance in the South Carolina track's crown jewel event, the Southern 500. The Team Penske driver sailed into the top 10 early on prior to his first visit to pit road on Lap 34. Shortly after, Cindric reported that the car had loosened up significantly. Crew Chief Brian Wilson called the 25-year-old racer down pit road for his second stop on Lap 69 for four sticker tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. On his way to a 13th-place result in Stage 1, Cindric alerted the Discount Tire team of a bad vibration he experienced during the run and returned to pit road for another service stop. The driver of the No. 2 jetted off from the 13th position for the restart to kick off Stage 2. On Lap 178, a caution slowed the field for lighting issues in Turns 3 and 4 before NASCAR officials stopped the field under the red flag on Lap 189 for just under seven minutes. On Lap 226, Cindric and the No. 54 of Ty Gibbs got together, sending Cindric's Ford Mustang into the wall, collecting considerable damage. On pit road, the Discount Tire crew assessed the damage and made repairs, cutting away at the right-front fender and replacing all four tires. Cindric returned to the track in the 33rd position, one lap down. Over the remainder of the race, the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year made multiple visits down pit road for additional repairs and service. When the checkered flag flew after 500 miles, Cindric was scored 31st in the running order. 
CINDRIC'S THOUGHTS: "Yeah, I think we learned a lot through the first half of the race. We started to go the right way on adjustments on our Discount Tire Ford Mustang and got a good bit better toward the end of Stage 2. I just got a little ahead of myself and made a mistake, damaging the car quite a bit. Definitely not the execution I wanted, especially with that much left in the race. I feel bad about that, but it was a promising weekend overall from a speed standpoint — we've just got to put it all together."


START: 4TH    
FINISH: 9TH      
RACE RUNDOWN: Ryan Blaney and the Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang started from the outside of row two to begin the NASCAR Playoffs Sunday night at Darlington Raceway and maintained top-five speed on the opening run of the 500-mile event. Following a pair of scheduled green flag pit stops during the first 115-lap segment, Blaney battled his way to a fifth-place finish in Stage 1 as the No. 12 team continued to make adjustments to alleviate a loose-handling condition that set in over the long run. During the opening run of Stage 2, Blaney began to struggle with the handling on corner entry and exit but maintained his spot in the top-10 before green flag pit stops cycled when he brought his Ford Mustang to pit road on lap 149 for four tires, fuel, and another round of adjustments. He was called to pit road following the caution on lap 178 before the red flag brought the field to a halt on the backstretch due to track lighting issues and lined up to restart seventh with 39 laps to go in the second stage. While Blaney continued to hold on to the seventh spot in the running order, a pair of cautions within ten laps of each other stacked up the field to set up a one-lap shootout to the end of Stage 2. Blaney was able to fend off the top lane on the restart to cross the line seventh at the conclusion of the stage to add on to his point total. The No. 12 team opted to bring Blaney to pit road during the stage break for four tires and fuel while a majority of the leaders stayed out, miring him back in 24th-place to take the green flag for the final segment. The Menards/Richmond Ford began to work its way tight over the course of the next green flag run, but a flurry of cautions over the final 60 laps allowed the No. 12 team to continue to work on the handling and regain track position as the laps ticked off. After staying out following the final caution of the night on lap 330, Blaney lined up ninth with 30 laps to go and maintained his pace the rest of the way to secure a ninth-place finish in the opening race of the Round of 16, marking his 13th top-10 finish of the season.

BLANEY'S THOUGHTS: "This race is such a weird race. It just goes through so many swings throughout the day and night. You start off the race in the full sun and it's hot and by the end of the second stage it's all night time and the track temperature changes. This place is really tricky with how the track changes and it went the complete opposite way of what we thought it was going to go, so that kind of threw us for a little bit of a loop. It was just a weird pit strategy race, too. You usually don't get that here, but just the way the cautions fell. There was a group of people with two laps on their tires and then split and it was kind of a wacky race. Luckily, we were able to get back to ninth. It was a hard-fought battle, for sure. I'm proud of the effort and it was a decent day on points."


START: 6TH    
FINISH: 12TH    
RACE RUNDOWN: Joey Logano and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil team battled their way to a hard-fought, 12th-place finish Sunday night at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Playoffs opener. After starting from the outside of row three, Logano fought handling issues in the entry and exit of the corners on the opening run before bringing his Ford Mustang to pit road for a scheduled green flag stop on lap 32 for four tires, fuel, and adjustments. Following another green flag stop on lap 66, Logano made contact with the outside wall in turn four which resulted in a loose-handling condition throughout the run to the end of the stage, compounded by contact with the No. 23 who got loose underneath him on the final lap of Stage 1. Logano was credited with an 11th-place finish in the stage, but the No. 22 team had to make an extended stop on pit road during the stage break to check the right front toe link for damage. After restarting 23rd to begin Stage 2, the handling issues continued to persist resulting in Logano going a lap down on lap 173. The caution flag flew shortly after on lap 178, making Logano the beneficiary of the free pass to rejoin the lead lap cars as the No. 22 team diagnosed the toe link issues under caution with a pair of trips to pit road under yellow. Logano was scored 27th at the end of Stage 2, but crew chief Paul Wolfe's ongoing adjustments began to take shape in the final stage as Logano drove his way up to 18th by the time the caution flag flew on lap 309 while he was on pit road for scheduled service. A pair of cautions on laps 318 and 330 allowed Wolfe to bring Logano to pit road prior to the final restart of the night with 30 laps to go and Logano made the most of the opportunity, making up nine spots in the first seven laps of the run before breaking into the top-10 on lap 345. With the late charge through the field, Logano was able to come away with an 11th-place finish despite the early setbacks.

LOGANO'S THOUGHTS: "I got ran in the wall a third time and bent the toe link. The guys did a great job changing that and staying pretty much on the lead lap and then started to grind our way back through the field. I probably could have done a little better. I probably gave up, overall, 15 points on the day. I think we're only a few points to the good right now, so those 15 would be nice."

WHAT'S NEXT: The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway for the second race in the Round of 16 on Sunday, September 10. Coverage begins at 3:00 pm E.T. on USA, MRN Radio and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

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