Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Race: Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Date: September 18, 2021
No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – Brad Keselowski
Stage 1: 4th
Stage 2: 3rd
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 10
Point Standings (behind first): 10th (-51)
- Brad Keselowski rallied for a sixth-place finish Saturday night at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Keselowski scored his best short track finish of the season and he posted his 12th top-10 effort in 29 races in 2021. He enters the next round of the Playoffs as the 10th seed, 51 points behind leader Kyle Larson.
- Keselowski started 10th Saturday night and moved his way towards the front of the field from the drop of the green flag. He moved inside the top five on lap 17 and stayed there through the remainder of Stage 1. The balance on the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang was tight by the end of the opening stage. The car's performance overall was solid, and Keselowski was rewarded with a fourth-place finish when the segment ended on lap 125. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the call for four tires and a track bar adjustment during the stage caution and Keselowski restarted in the second position on lap 135.
- Keselowski seized the race lead on lap 138 and ran at the front for the next seven laps before the handling became too tight on the Discount Tire Mustang. He remained inside the top five as the stage neared its conclusion. The fourth caution of the night on lap 221 set up a round of pit stops for some of the race leaders under caution – but not Keselowski, as the No. 2 team elected to remain on track. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford restarted third and held firm to the position over the final 18 laps of the stage. The 15 points that Keselowski earned over the first two stages were critically important in keeping him above the cutline to advance to the next Playoff round. Keselowski pitted during the Stage 2 caution for four tires and he restarted 11th on lap 259.
- In the final stage, Keselowski and the team worked themselves back into position to score a solid finish despite a tight-handling condition on the No. 2 Mustang. He pitted on lap 392 for tires and another round of adjustments and he lined up 15th for the final green flag run on lap 407. Over the final 93 laps, Keselowski picked his way through traffic. He passed Martin Truex Jr. on lap 434 to climb back inside the top 10 and he raced his way up to the sixth position with 33 laps to go. Keselowski chased Alex Bowman and teammate Ryan Blaney in the closing laps but wasn't able to work his way inside the top five. The strong result continues to build confidence on the No. 2 team as it advances to the next round of the Playoffs.
Quote: "That's the most speed we've shown in quite some time and I'm super proud of that. It's awesome. That's the best we've been. I'm thrilled to death with that and trying to move on and advance and find more speed for next week."
No. 12 Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang – Ryan Blaney
Stage 1: 5th
Stage 2: 7th
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 45
Point Standings (behind first): 4th (-35)
- Ryan Blaney started seventh and finished fourth in Saturday night's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race 500, while leading 45 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway. Blaney ran inside the top-five for the majority of the race, and he clinched a position in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12 by the conclusion of the second stage. Blaney will carry 24 playoff points with him into the next round, which begins next weekend at Las Vegas.
- Through the opening stage of the race, Blaney reported the Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang was a handling a little free, as crew chief Todd Gordon called for an air pressure adjustment during the lap 40 competition caution period. Blaney remained inside the top five and he collected six points at the end of Stage 1 as he concluded the stage running in fifth place.
- Blaney continued his top-five performance until a caution with less than 25 laps remaining in the second stage. During the caution, the Menards/Richmond team elected to pit and look for the opportunity to cycle forward at the end of the stage. Blaney was able to move forward to the seventh position before the end of the stage with the No. 12 Ford Mustang team electing to remain on the track at the end of the stage.
- During the first long run in the final stage, Blaney told the team he was struggling on front turn in the Menards/Richmond Ford and he settled into the fourth position after leading numerous laps, as he generated lap times comparable to the cars with fresher tires. The team returned to pit road at lap 392 and made a trackbar adjustment, in an effort to give Blaney the handling he needed on a potential long run to the checkered flag.
- Blaney continued to run well, while others around him had trouble, as he made the most of his adjustments on the long run to the checkered flag. Blaney's fourth-place result in the Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang marked the ninth top-five finish of the season for the No. 12 Ford team, and the fourth in the last six races.
Quote: "I thought tonight we did a good job of just staying kind of in the hunt all night. I felt like we kind of ran top five most of the night. It wasn't the best car. I'd take off really good, but I couldn't keep the long run speed as good as other guys, like the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was crazy fast on the long run and we just didn't quite have that speed, but I thought we were a little better that last run and were kind of able to keep pace with the leaders, but just not quite enough. I'm proud of the effort. It's nice to move onto the next round, that's for sure, and look forward to Vegas."
No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Joey Logano
Stage 1: 22nd
Stage 2: 12th
Laps Completed: 500/500
Laps Led: 0
Point Standings (behind first): 9th (-46)
- Joey Logano started third and finished in 11th on Saturday night as the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang crew pushed through setbacks and handling woes throughout the 500-lap Bristol Night Race. Logano overcame an early brake duct issue on his first pit stop of the night and battled back all night to advance to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
- After running inside the top five for most of the first 40 laps of the race, the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil team experienced issues on pit road early, which resulted in Logano falling back to the 22nd position for the ensuing race restart. At the end of Stage 1, Logano reported that the No. 22 Ford was handling way too tight to run the bottom of the track, as the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang team elected to make a trackbar change on the stage ending pit stop to help the car's performance.
- A caution flag at lap 171 set up a lap 173 pit stop for the Shell-Pennzoil crew and the team delivered with a great stop that allowed Logano to gain six positions and earn a spot back inside the top 10. The team decided to pit from the 11th position, sacrificing just two spots under caution with 22 laps remaining in Stage 2. The strategy gave the No. 22 Ford team the option to remain on-track at the stage conclusion. Logano continued to run well and he finished in the 12th position at the conclusion of Stage 2.
- For the first 100 laps of the final stage, Logano battled a persistent lack of turn in the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. After battling to stay inside the top 10, Logano lost some positions on track and fell outside the top 15 in the running order. The team adjusted the car again on lap 392, as they tried to give Logano more turn in the center of the turns and the ability to run the bottom of the track in the closing stages of the race. The changes helped Logano earn back a few positions in the closing laps to finish in 11th place.
- Logano will enter the Round of 12 in the ninth position, 11 points above the cutline, as he will carry his 13 season-accrued playoff points into the next round, which opens next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – a track where Logano has produced two career Cup Series victories.
Quote: "It was just a struggle. We tried some things and didn't really get anywhere with it. The car was just very disconnected, very free in, tight landing – tight two-thirds especially – and we never were able to fix it with the adjustments we got in the race. It just eventually wears the front tires off and back up lights come on. I thought we might finish in the top 10 and get that out of it, but fell off pretty hard the last 15 (laps)."