Track: Darlington Raceway
Race: Bojangles' Southern 500
Date: September 1, 2019
No. 2 Miller Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 7th
Stage 2: 9th
Laps Completed: 367/367
Laps Led: 19
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 6th (-151)
- Brad Keselowski scored a fifth-place finish in the Bojangles' Southern 500 Sunday night at Darlington Raceway. Keselowski collected his ninth top-five finish of the season and his fourth in 11 races at the historic South Carolina speedway. He is sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings, 30 points behind fifth-place Martin Truex Jr. and 151 behind leader Kyle Busch.
- The start of the 367-lap, 500-mile race was delayed by rain for nearly four hours, pushing the finish to 2:00 a.m. ET. Keselowski, who started second, didn't seem to mind the late start, leading the first 19 laps of the race before a lack of rear grip shuffled him to third when he made his first stop under the competition caution on lap 37. He battled a lack of rear grip throughout Stage 1 but finished seventh when the opening segment concluded on lap 100. Keselowski pitted for four tires during the stage caution on lap 103 and lined up sixth when the race went green on lap 106.
- The adjustments made by crew chief Paul Wolfe improved the balance on the Miller Ford, but Keselowski still needed overall grip. He made two scheduled pit stops during Stage 2 for tires and adjustments and was credited with a ninth-place finish when the segment ended on lap 200. He pitted during the stage caution two laps later for four tires and an air pressure adjustment and lined up eighth for the restart on lap 206.
- Keselowski held his own during the following green flag run. He was running seventh when Wolfe made the call to pit under green on lap 249. When the green flag cycle was complete, Keselowski emerged third in in the running order. The Miller Ford took off strong after the stop but got tight as laps ticked off. He was eighth when the seventh and final caution on lap 276 set up another round of pit stops. Speedy service by the 2 Crew moved Keselowski up to fifth-place when the race went green on lap 281.
- Once again, the Miller Ford took off strong but as the run progressed the lack of front and rear drive returned. Keselowski was running sixth when he made his final stop under green on lap 319 for four tires. Once the green flag pit sequence was complete, Keselowski emerged fourth for the 40-lap dash to the finish. Kevin Harvick dropped Keselowski to fifth on lap 341 but the driver of the Miller Ford held firm to fifth-place over the final 26 laps to score the top-five.
Quotes: "It was kind of a blue-collar top five. We just hung around fifth to tenth all day and was able to clear off a few cars there at the end and ended up fifth. We had good short run speed with the Miller Ford, but we didn't really have the long run speed and the long runs, you've got to have that. I had as much fun as I've ever had here at Darlington."
No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 18th
Stage 2: 16th
Laps Completed: 366/367
Laps Led: 0
Driver Point Standings (behind first): 10th (-273)
- A rollercoaster night for Ryan Blaney ended with 13th-place finish in the Bojangles' Southern 500 Sunday night at Darlington Raceway. The driver of the Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang officially clinched a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs entering the regular season finale next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Blaney is 10th in NASCAR Cup Series point standings, four points behind ninth-place Kyle Larson and 273 behind leader Kyle Busch.
- Blaney started 10th in the 367-lap event at the track "Too Tough to Tame." Following a lengthy rain delay, The High Point, N.C. native drove up to sixth position within the first 10 laps of the race. Moments later he reported to crew chief Jeremy Bullins that his Ford Mustang was tight on both ends of the speedway and he slipped back to seventh position at the time of the competition caution on lap 37. He pitted during the caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment and restarted eighth on lap 40. He soon reported that the balance on his Mustang had shifted to the loose side and he fell back to 18th when the second caution slowed the pace on lap 69. Blaney pitted for tires, fuel and additional air pressure adjustment under the yellow and restarted 17th on lap 72 and finished 18th when Stage 1 concluded on lap 100. Under the stage break, the Menards crew would make additional wedge and air pressure adjustment on a lap 103 pit stop.
- Stage 2 went green on lap 106 and Blaney soon reported the adjustments made during the stage break didn't improve the overall balance, saying his Mustang was in a four-wheel slide. He would visit pit road again under the fourth caution on lap 142 for new tires and more chassis adjustments. Excellent work by the pit crew moved him up a spot on the restart on lap 145. The race ran green for the next 16 laps and Blaney reported improvement to the handling characteristics of his Mustang. Bullins made air pressure and track bar adjustments during a stop under caution on lap 160 and another solid pit stop by the Menards crew moved Blaney up to 13th for the restart. His car remained loose when Stage 2 ended on lap 200, dropping Blaney to 16th. Blaney pitted for tires and more adjustments during the stage caution and restarted 16th when the race went green on lap 206.
- The balance of the Menards/Pennzoil Ford remained loose in Stage 3. Bullins decided to short-pit on lap 250 for tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment. Blaney used the fresh tires to gain several positions over cars that pitted later in the run.
- The seventh and final caution on lap 276 gave the Menards/Pennzoil team the opportunity to pit for four new tires plus wedge and air pressure adjustments. Blaney restarted 10th, the highest he had since earlier in the race, but the No. 12 Mustang remained loose. He fell to 13th before making his final stop of the night under green on lap 321 for tires and one final round of adjustments. He held off teammate Joey Logano during the closing laps of the race to finish 13th, equaling his best Cup finish at Darlington.
Quote: "We struggled with the balance all night on the Menards/Pennzoil Ford. We just couldn't get the car to work the way we wanted. I'm proud of my team for not giving up and we locked ourselves in the Playoffs on points so I'm happy about that for sure."
No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Stage 1: 8th
Stage 2: 32nd
Laps Completed: 366/367
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (Ahead of Second): 2nd (-64)
- Joey Logano overcame an unscheduled pit stop that put his No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang two laps down to score a 14th-place finish in the Bojangles' Southern 500 on Sunday night at Darlington Raceway.
- After a four-hour rain delay, the 500-mile race began with Logano taking the green from the seventh position. Early in the going, the throwback Shell-Pennzoil Mustang was tight, forcing Logano to settle into eighth place. By the time the competition caution flew on lap 35, the driver of the Shell-Pennzoil Ford reported a "plowing tight" condition.
- He remained rather quiet on the radio as the remainder of Stage 1 ran green. Logano moved from 12th up to eighth position when the stage ended on lap 100. He said his Mustang would get looser and looser as the run went on during the opening segment of the race.
- As Stage 2 progressed, Logano and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang struggled to maintain the longevity of the front tires. A hard-fought battle with Chase Elliott also resulted in a light brush with the Turn 4 wall. Logano made an unscheduled pit stop on lap 172 for a cut right-rear tire, thanks to contact with Erik Jones just a few laps earlier. The stop dropped Logano two laps down to the leaders and shuffled him back to 32nd in the running order when the segment ended on lap 100.
- Over the final half of the event, Logano would fight and claw his way back onto the lead lap. The seventh caution on lap 276 allowed Crew Chief Todd Gordon to leave Logano on the track and take the wave around, putting the No. 22 Mustang back on the same lap as the leaders. Another timely caution would enable Logano to make up the lost distance and get on the same pit sequence as the leaders.
- Unfortunately, the yellow flag never came. Logano held serve on the lead lap, but never got the caution. He eventually fell down a lap and was credited with a 14th-place finish.
Quote: "It was so tough to pass out there. You could catch another car, but you couldn't get around them. That is frustrating for sure and was another reason we got some damage earlier in the race. You just try so hard to make the passes when you can. We will just keep our heads up and move onto Indy. It would be great to get Roger back-to-back victoried at the Brickyard."