TRACK: HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
RACE: 4EVER 400
DATE: OCTOBER 22, 2023
AUSTIN CINDRIC No. 2 FREIGHTLINER FORD MUSTANG
STAGE ONE: 16TH
STAGE TWO: 20TH
RACE RUNDOWN: Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 2 Freightliner Ford Mustang, raced in the top 10 in the final stint before ultimately recording a solid 12th-place finish Sunday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Piloting a pink Freightliner scheme in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and carrying the names of multiple breast cancer warriors, Cindric started deep in the field but swiftly gained momentum, jolting forward seven spots less than 30 laps in. The young driver's first comments over the radio came on Lap 28 when he asked for the car to be snugged up a bit, shortly before making a green-flag pit stop on Lap 31 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Steadily climbing up the charts, Cindric keyed up the radio under caution on Lap 76 to inform the team that the recent adjustment "made the car really comfortable to drive" and finished Stage 1 in the 16th position. Crew Chief Brian Wilson assembled a routine service stop under the Stage break and Cindric restarted 16th. Cindric dropped to 25th as the run went on, alerting the team that the car was "too tight, center and exit." On Lap 125, the Team Penske driver visited pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Cindric was able to regain some ground, taking the Stage 2 green-and-white checkered flag 20th in the running order. The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion hit pit road following the completion of the segment for service and lined up 21st for the restart. Finding his rhythm again, Cindric charged up to the 14th position by the time a caution flew on Lap 214 with just 54 laps remaining in the race. While under the yellow flag, the driver commented that the car was getting tight. When pit road opened, Cindric returned to the attention of the Freightliner pit crew for a fast four-tire stop and positioned himself in 10th for the restart with 46 laps to go. A couple of cautions flew, and Cindric made his final appearance on pit road on Lap 236, pitting from the 11th position for fresh tires, fuel and an adjustment after asking the team to free up the car a little. Putting up a strong fight to the finish, Cindric took the checkered flag 12th.
CINDRIC'S THOUGHTS: “Yeah, it was a really great execution day by everyone on the No. 2 car. It was nice to put the whole thing together. I thought we had some really solid speed, Brian did a great job on strategy, and I felt like we kept up with the track pretty well. It was really cool to be able to run the pink Freightliner scheme and honor breast cancer warriors through the Freightliner Goes Pink campaign and hopefully give those families a great run. I had a lot of fun today; I'm confident we can make this the norm."
RYAN BLANEY No. 12 MENARDS/DURACELL FORD MUSTANG
STAGE ONE: 3RD
STAGE TWO: 1ST
RACE RUNDOWN: After entering Sunday’s 400-mile race at Homestead-Miami Speedway 17 points below the cut line, Ryan Blaney battled his way to a second-place finish to leave the second race of the Round of 8 ten points to the good heading into the final elimination race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The result marked Blaney’s best career finish at the 1.5-mile oval as the Menards/Duracell Ford Mustang led five times for 53 laps in the runner-up effort. Blaney displayed exceptional long-run speed throughout the course of the afternoon as he raced his way up to third in the running order following the first round of green flag pit stops at the halfway point of Stage 1. As he began to reel in the leaders with the stage coming to a close, the caution flag flew on lap 77 to bring his momentum to a halt as Stage 1 ended under yellow resulting in a third-place finish. Following a four-tire stop with a round of adjustments at the stage break, Blaney lined up to restart fifth before settling into fourth by lap 95. Crew chief Jonathan Hassler brought Blaney to pit road during the green flag pit cycle on lap 114 for four tires and another round of adjustments as the No. 12 crew sent him out of the pit stall ahead of the No. 24 to cycle to third in the running order. Blaney continued to charge forward during the ensuing run as he made his way around the No. 6 for the second spot while cutting down the deficit to the leader to 1.5 seconds with eight laps to go in the stage. As the high line continued to work in Blaney’s favor, he darted to the inside of the No. 5 in turn four to take the lead with three laps to go in the stage, resulting in his fifth stage win of the season. The No. 12 team put together another quick, four-tire stop at the stage break to win the race off pit road as Blaney lined up to restart on the outside of row one and battled with the No. 24 for the lead during the opening laps of the final stage. Despite a tight-handling condition that began to set in, Blaney maintained a half-second lead over the No. 11 with the final green flag pit stops of the afternoon looming. Hassler made the call to pit from the lead on lap 213 with the No. 5 following in behind Blaney to pit road, but the No. 5 overshot the pit entry and made contact with Blaney’s right rear and piled into the sand barrels, bringing out the caution in the middle of the pit cycle. Since Blaney crossed the commitment line before the caution came out, he was able to get his four-tire service without penalty and rejoined the field scored 10th in the running order. The red flag was displayed with 51 laps to go and once back under yellow, the leaders made their way to pit road to allow Blaney to retake the lead for the following restart with 46 laps remaining. As the leaders jockeyed for position with the laps winding down, Blaney found himself in a back-and-forth battle with the No. 11 before a mechanical issue sent the No. 11 into the wall in turn one just in front of Blaney to bring out the yellow on lap 235. The leaders hit pit road for one final stop as the No. 12 team got Blaney off pit road second, setting up a restart with 25 laps to go. Despite falling back to third during the opening laps following the restart, Blaney fought back to take second from the No. 24 and set his sights on the No. 20 for the lead but was unable to close the distance, resulting in a second-place finish.
BLANEY'S THOUGHTS: "We were trying. We just needed laps. The long run car was really good. I just couldn’t fire off for 10 laps or so. I think the track cooling off helped those guys. I think we were better in the hotter, slicker conditions when fire off speed didn’t matter as much and it fell off quicker. That played into our benefit. It got a little cooler at the end and we never really front the front end speed and they did. We ran out of laps a little bit. I am proud of the effort. It was a really good day, we just got beat a little bit there at the end."
JOEY LOGANO No. 22 SHELL-PENNZOIL FORD MUSTANG
STAGE ONE: 15TH
STAGE TWO: 10TH
RACE RUNDOWN: Despite starting at the tail-end of the field in a backup car due to an incident in Saturday’s practice session, Joey Logano raced his way to an eighth-place finish Sunday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway, marking his first top-10 finish since 2019 at the 1.5-mile oval. Logano fought a loose-handling Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang during the opening run, but crew chief Paul Wolfe kept Logano on the track until the very end of the first green-flag pit cycle as he made his way up to second in the running order before hitting pit road on lap 39. Logano was scored 27th following the four-tire stop and a round of adjustments but managed to stay on the lead lap as he charged all the way up to 15th on the leaderboard by the time the caution flag flew on lap 77 to bring Stage 1 to a close. After restarting Stage 2 from 15th, Logano reported a tight-handling condition on the opening laps of the ensuing run while working the top lane along the wall, but managed to maintain his position up until the next round of green flag pit stops began to cycle. Wolfe brought Logano to pit road on lap 114 before the Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang was scored 11th by the time the cycle was complete. Logano broke into the top-10 with 15 laps to go in the second segment and ultimately came away with a 10th-place finish in Stage 2. The No. 22 crew gained Logano four spots on pit road following a four-tire stop at the stage break as he lined up to take the green flag from the inside of row three. Despite struggles in dirty air, Logano was scored eighth at the time of the caution on lap 213 in the middle of the green flag pit cycle. After the red flag was lifted, Logano followed the leaders down pit road for four-tire stops as the field lined up to take the green. The caution flag flew yet again on lap 235 prompting the final pit stops of the afternoon as the No. 22 team reeled off another quick, four-tire stop to set up Logano to restart fifth with 25 laps to go. He worked his way up to fourth in the running order during the opening laps of the final restart, but ultimately took the checkered flag eighth for his 16th top-10 finish of the season.
LOGANO'S THOUGHTS: "Can’t say enough about the effort from this 22 team this weekend. To come away with a top-10 - and competing for a top-five late - after starting in the back brought the weekend to a close on a high note for us. Our Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang was really strong running the wall and we made up a lot of ground up there. Really proud of the result and looking forward to finishing the year strong."
WHAT'S NEXT: The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, October 29 for the final race in the NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 and the penultimate race of the 2023 Cup Series season. Coverage of the Xfinity 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN Radio and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.