Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Report - Atlanta

March 6, 2017

Track:    Atlanta Motor Speedway
Race:     Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500
Date:     March 5, 2017

No. 2 Autotrader Ford Fusion – Brad Keselowski

Start: 5th
Finish: 1st
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 325/325
Laps Led: 21
Point Standings (behind leader): 3rd (-6)

Recap: Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Autotrader Ford Fusion team displayed the kind of perseverance that has become one of their hallmarks in winning Sunday's Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS). Keselowski began the race from the fifth position before radioing to crew chief Paul Wolfe early that his Ford was too loose around the tough AMS circuit. Wolfe made myriad changes to air pressure and wedge during the 325-lap race, but this condition was one that would stay with Keselowski for most of the race. Despite the handling of the Autotrader machine, Keselowski was able to climb to the second position before the end of the first 85-lap stage to pick up nine additional points. Early in the second stage the team dodged a potential disaster as Keselowski radioed that he ran over something, damaging his right-front tire. After a quick entrance to pit road for four tires and fuel his suspicions were confirmed and he remained on a different pit cycle for the rest of the stage. However, after a gritty drive through the field, Keselowski grabbed a seventh-place finish in the second stage to remain in contention for a win. The final stage began with Keselowski in the fourth position and he would remain inside the top five until lap 263 when, after making a routine pit stop for four tires and fuel, it was discovered that lug nuts were left loose on the left-rear wheel. Unfortunately, the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champion had to make an additional trip down pit road to fix the issue and had to restart the race from the 14th position. Never one to panic, Keselowski began to work his way back through the field and he found himself running third on the final restart of the day at lap 315. On lap 319 he was able to power his Ford Fusion around the No. 42 of Kyle Larson to secure his first AMS victory – and the 22nd of his MENCS career – to virtually guarantee a spot in the 2017 NASCAR playoffs.

Quote: "Wins are always special, but early in the season they're really good. You just can't take any wins for granted. I know I don't. I always feel like before a race, you obviously always want to win, and you always wonder yourself when your last win is going to be, and I'm not anywhere near retirement age, but you still think about those things and you think about how tough it just is to win at this level and how lucky you are to have a team to win. A great winning percentage at this level is one out of every 10 races, and one out of every 10 races, if you can pull that off, you're a Hall of Famer. I think that's just a testament to how tough it is. So today was a tough day for us, and we knew it was going to be a tough day. We had some issues, as well. But that's part of the sport, and that's part of everything that's so challenging about it to win and making it special when you do is to overcome those things like the Autotrader Ford Fusion team did today."

No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion – Joey Logano

Start:  6th
Finish: 6th
Status: Running
Laps Completed:  325/325
Laps Led:  0
Point Standings: 5th (-10)

Recap:  Joey Logano started and finished in the sixth position with the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion in Sunday's Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. While the box score would make it appear that it was just an average day for the Shell-Pennzoil Ford, the true story would show that the 22 team is poised to make a championship run yet again. On the first lap of the event, Logano made contact with another competitor in the first turn, nearly spinning as the field exited Turn 2. The contact resulted in right-front fender damage to the No. 22 Ford, which the team would have to work on through multiple stops later in the race. Logano remained determined, working his way from the ninth position inside the top-five before making his first pit stop of the day. On the stop, crew chief Todd Gordon instructed the team clear the fender, while making a four-tire stop and adjusting the air pressures to help Logano who was battling a loose condition. At the end of the first stage, Logano found himself in the fifth position, earning five points towards the regular season championship. Through quick pit work, including a wedge adjustment, the team gained a position during the sequence. Logano was forced to pit early at lap 119 when he felt a severe vibration, the unscheduled stop would drop the 22 from the lead lap and serve as the starting point for the team's impressive recovery. At the end of the second stage, Logano found himself in 14th, still one lap down to the leaders. On the fourth stop of the day, Gordon had the team finish the repairs to the finder and repair a hole in the right front cowl flap, caused by debris kicked up from the right front tire.  More trouble would find the team at Lap 220, when Logano again pitted for a vibration, this time for a loose wheel. However, through late race cautions and the team’s resilience, Logano would battle back to the lead lap after being down two laps to the race leader. Crew chief Todd Gordon opted to take the wave around on two separate occasions, which resulted in getting the team back on the lead lap and in position to contend for a top-10 finish in the closing stages of the event. Logano restarted the race at lap 314 in the 14th positon, and quickly gained four spots on the first lap. From there, Logano set his sights on gaining as many championship points as he could get in the remaining 10 laps. Logano worked the Shell-Pennzoil Ford back to the sixth position where the afternoon started.

Quote "We had some loose wheel issues and once the first one got loose it messes up the threads and then that is the end of that. We just kept battling and had a pit road speeding penalty, a loose wheel again and another loose wheel. Man, we were two down and before you know it we were back on the lead lap and had a shot there at the end, 13th to 6th the last 10 laps or so. Man, as fast as that thing was at the end, I wish we were toward the front. That is awesome for Brad and Autotraders first win with Team Penske so that is cool to see as well. The Fords had a lot of speed out there again today."