CONCORD, N.C-- Going into the Monster Energy All-Star Race, the talk was about the new “option” tire that Goodyear was bringing to help spice and liven up the All-Star Race. According to Goodyear, the “option” tire was supposed to fall off drastically after six to eight “at-speed” laps. However, the option tires balanced out with the primary tires during the short 20 lap segments.
Before the first stage began, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott ran the “option” tires in an effort to gain track position. Suarez started from the 19th position, but was the only driver to make the most gains using the option tires in the day time. Suarez gained eight positions in the opening stage.
Although Suarez gained the most positions with the tires, many drivers only saw a gain of one to two positions using the “option” tires.
With the option tires, came a strategy NASCAR could not have imagined.
Between the second and third stages, Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief for Clint Bowyer, put on two “Prime” tires and two “option” tires on the car. On the radio, Ryan Blaney was furious about what had transpired with Bowyer. Per NASCAR, the move was totally legal. The move was legal because the team had put on the four “sticker” sets of the “option” tire before leaving two on the race car. Bowyer was able to get off pit road in the first position, but once the race restarted, he quickly fell to the back.
“It was a good try. Track position is key and you try to do something to get track position and you don’t have the upper hand. They’re better than you on that deal. I think if we would have had tires and started up front, we’d have been hard to handle tonight,” said Bowyer, after he was eliminated. “We were a good car all night long, it’s just this format and the way the race is. You can’t complain about it because it is what it is. It’s the All-Star Race and everybody wants to be a part of it, it’s just unfortunate that your hands are tied.”
Brad Keselowski tried to play a similar move in the break between the second and third stage. However, the move he made was deemed illegal. When Paul Wolfe and the No. 2 team put the “option” tires on, they came back down pit road to put the “prime” tire back on the car after two laps under the caution. NASCAR told the team that they would be unable to use the “option” tire. Keselowski had to run the race on his last set of primary tires. The team missed two lug nuts when the placed the “option” tires on.
“Definitely a tough finish tonight for the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. We had loose lug nuts after the second stage and having to come back down pit road to tighten those definitely altered our strategy. We just have to regroup this coming week and be better for the 600,” Keselowski stated post-race.
After the race, drivers assessed the “option” tire based on a longer run compared to a short run.
“They weren't bad. I mean, the trend of handling from my car was the same on the yellows versus the greens. I didn't see a huge shift in trends over the run and balance change. So it just had a bit more grip and went faster for a short period of time. I think it ended up in the same spot as the yellows did,” said Jimmie Johnson, who finished third on Saturday night.
The run that I was the leader, Jimmie was on the options, I felt like he closed on me to about the six‑ to eight‑lap mark, then I started pulling back away. The run that I was on the green tire, there was a lot of us on the green tire. I was kind of at the speed that they were at,” said Kyle Larson, who finished second. “We were catching Jimmie, who was on the regular tire. I don't know. Everybody's cars drive differently and stuff. I felt like the handling of it stayed pretty good, though, throughout the 20 laps. I don't know how the lap time looked 'cause I was battling people, so I wasn't really looking at my dash to see what I was running. Yeah, so I don't know.”
Although the initial test of the option tire was not up to par, it could potentially be used in points-paying events after more research and development.
After gaining the lead when teammate Brad Keslowski was fending off Kyle Busch and moving through the field with fresh tires on the final restart, Joey Logano will win the Toyota Owners 400 from RIchmond International Raceway under hot and slick conditions for his first win of 2017. Logano had to start at the back of the field due to changing a transmission on Saturday.
“I knew the 2 was so much faster than everybody and I had to get out there as quick and as far as I could. He was on his way to catch me. I think he was catching me a couple tenths a lap. That was all I had inside the car and I burned them up early trying to go,” said Logano post-race. “I am proud of the effort of the team. We executed under pressure today and brought a car home that was a 5th-10th place car home to victory lane.”
This is Logano’s 18th career win coming on his 300th start. Ford has won four of the first nine race of 2017. This is Logano's second victory at Richmond.
Keselowski finished second after the best long run car throughout the day. Keselowski ran up front for most of the race leading 110 laps. Despite having one of the cars to beat, Keselowski was upset after the race despite a second place finish.
“It was just hoping for another restart or the race to get extended for another 10 laps. I think we had a ton of long run speed today. That short run at the end...half the field came, half the field didn’t. I just got stuck in a lane of cars that didn’t go,” said Keselowski post-race. “By the time I did, he had a whole straightaway on me. I got it down to a couple of car lengths at the end. All and all I’m happy for Team Penske withe 1-2 finish. We’ll take it and move on.”
Denny Hamlin finished quietly in third after leading 59 laps during the race. Hamlin played a two-tire strategy in the second stage to give him the track position beginning on lap 211. According to the TV pit stop times, Hamlin’s pit crew was doing 10 to 11 second stops. However, NASCAR found a missing lug nut on the right rear tire post-race.
“We were competitive and our car drove really good. We were just missing some of the speed from the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Joey Logano) – they run a little more sideways than what we run and just they have more grip. I think we optimized our day for the most part and that’s about as good as we could do.”
Commitment line violations changed the complexion of the race, especially for Kyle Busch. When he leaders hit the pit lane after the final caution of the race, Busch was nabbed for violating the commitment line by not having all four tires below the line. NASCAR warned drivers in the driver’s meeting pre-race and over the radio before the green flag fell. Busch was unable to see the box due to the fact that Logano cut down to the pit lane at the last moment.
Busch declined full comment after the race about the incident, but told FOX. “Balls and strikes.” Busch walked away briskly without answering anymore questions. Busch finished the race in the 16th position despite running up front all race. Busch was one of six drivers busted for violating the commitment line.
There were 18 lead changes amongst eight different drivers. The caution flew nine times for 53 laps. The time of race was three hours, 14 minutes, and 34 seconds
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the GIECO 500 from Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Coverage from Talladega will be on FOX and Motor Racing Network beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Brad Keselowski was able to hold off and set sail to give Roger Penske and Ford Performance the victory in Sunday’s STP 500.
“This is awesome. We’ve ran so good here with the Miller Lite Ford, but something always happens and we haven’t been able to bring it home. Martinsville is just one of those champion’s tracks. The guys that run well everywhere run well here, and it’s really just an honor to win here and get to compete here. This track is 70 years old and a lot of legends have won here. It feels great to be able to join them and bring home a clock,” said Keselowski in victory lane.
This is Ford’s first win at Martinsville since 2002 with Kurt Busch, and Team Penske’s first win at Martinsville since 2004 with Rusty Wallace. This is Keselowski’s second victory in 2017.
The first stage started with an early surge from pole sitter Kyle Larson. Larson was able to lead the first 22 circuits, but as he was battling lapped traffic, Keselowski was able to pass him. That sent Larson dropping through the field. Keselowski was on point until the caution flew on lap 70. During the pit stops, Keselowski was busted for speeding resulting in him starting from the back of the field. Martin Truex Jr. assumed the race lead to go on to dominate and win the stage. Denny Hamlin finished second in the first stage, Kyle Busch finished third, Keselowski finished fourth, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.
Many drivers stayed out at the conclusion of the stage because they pitted 13 laps before hand. To start the second stage, Ky. Busch was the race leader, Elliott restarted second, Ryan Blaney restarted third, Logano restarted fourth, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five.
The second stage belonged to Ky. Busch. Busch dominated the second stage, but came up short on the playoff point. As Ky. Busch was putting cars a lapped down, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was trying to stay on the lead lap, but failed to do so. As the stage closed, Stenhouse was able to get on the bumper of Busch coming off the fourth turn on the final lap of the stage. That bump was able to give Elliott the advantage and the stage win. Ky. Busch finished second, Keselowski finished third, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, and Blaney rounded out the top-five in the second stage.
Elliott won the stage off pit road, Ky. Busch was second, Johnson was third, Keselowski was fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five to start the final stage.
The final stage was prominently dominated once again by Ky. Busch. The first laps of the stage were unable to get in a rhythm as the caution flew five times for 25 laps. Once the race was able to get into a rhythm, Ky. Busch was able to lead 65 laps before Keselowski began to close in. The lead swapped between Keselowski and Busch numerous times. The final pass on Busch for Keselowski was the money move. Keseloski was able to move Kyle Busch up the race track and set sail for victory.
Ky. Busch finished second, Elliott finished third, Logano finished fourth, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five in the STP 500.
The caution flew 14 times for 95 laps. The lead changed 18 times among 17 drivers. The average speed was 70.139 mph. The time of race was three hours, 44 minutes, and 59 seconds.
Kyle Larson still holds the points lead by four points over Chase Elliott, Truex Jr. is third in points only 32 points behind Larson, Keselowski is 34 points behind in fourth, and Logano rounds out the top-five in points 61 back.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the O’Rielly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway on April 9th at 1:30 p.m. EST on FOX and Performance Racing Network.
Three days removed from the Camping World 500 at Phoenix, massive penalties were handed down to the teams of two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.
Keselowski and his No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford team finished fifth in the 314-lap race but that finish will now be encumbered as they failed post-race inspection. Along with crew chief Paul Wolfe being suspended for the next three races and fined $65,000, the team also loses 35 driver and owner points. This is known as a L1 penalty. Although he already has a win from Atlanta a few weeks ago, Keselowski took a hit in the points standings, moving from second to fourth.
Harvick’s team was also assessed a L1 penalty for an unimproved track bar mount, which was discovered earlier today at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, NC. Crew chief Rodney Childers has been, suspended for the upcoming weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, fined $25,000. The No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford team also lost 10 driver and owner points, which bumped Harvick from seventh in the MENCS standings to ninth.
According to NBC Sports’ NASCAR America, the No. 2 team will evaluate on whether to appeal. The car returned to the shop from the west coast and the area that NASCAR found to be violated is being evaluated as well. While there has been no word from Stewart-Haas Racing on whether the team will appeal or who will sub for Childers, Brian Wilson, former chief engineer on the Keselowski team will be on the pit box in California.
After running into Cole Custer under caution during the NXS race in Phoenix, the DC Solar 200, Austin Dillon will not be penalized. The driver of the No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet was parked after 190 laps.
AJ Allmendinger’s No. 47 Chevrolet crew chief Randall Burnett has sat out of the west coast swing after only 17 of 20 lugnuts were found tight at Atlanta. Burnett was fined $65,000 and suspended for three races. The team’s appeal was upheld earlier today.
HAMPTON, Ga.— In a race dominated by Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski was able to gain the victory after a pit road mishap in the closing laps by Harvick in the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is his 22nd career victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This is his first career win at Atlanta.
"You never know. That’s how these races are. We had a lot of adversity today there’s not doubt about that. These races aren’t easy. They’re 500 miles and a lot can happen and when you think you’ve got it they slip away. I know how it goes,” said Keselowski post-race. “This one kind of fell in our lap at the end and my team put it all together when it counted. They gave me a great Autotrader Ford Fusion and we were able to get by Kyle (Larson) there at the end. I knew that he wasn’t going to be easy to pass. His car was great and I was able to make the right moves to get by him."
The first stage saw the dominance of Harvick. Keselowski was the silent force in second through much of the first segment. The early stages saw Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray tag each other and the wall, but both drivers were able to continue. Harvick won the first stage, Keselowski was second, Chase Elliott was third, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth, and Logano rounded out the top-five. Harvick wins race of pit road.
The second stage saw the continued dominance of Harvick. Keselowski began to use the short pitting strategy towards the middle of the segment. As green flag pit stops occurred, Keselowski cycled to the lead for only 12 laps. However, with newer tires for Harvick, he quickly regained the lead to win the second stage. Elliott finished second, Ryan Newman finished third, Truex Jr. finished fourth, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.
The third stage was one of magic for Keselowski and his team. As the third stage began to progress, weather began to change the complexion of the race. In the earlier portion of the third stage, Keselowski began to grab the handling back in his vehicle. The race began to change as drivers were getting caught for speeding on pit road. The caution flew for debris and then for a blew engine. As the leaders hit pit road, Keselowski was able to win the race off pit road. However, Keselowski had to go back down pit road to make sure all the lug nuts were tight on the tires. After the issue, Keselowski was able to put himself in prime position on the final restart. The final caution of the race flew as Austin Dillon was stopped on the racetrack due to battery issues. Keselowski started second on the restart after Larson assumed the lead. Keselowski and Larson battled for the top position. Larson would run the high side, but Keselowski used the low lane to pass Larson and grab the victory.
Larson finished second, Kenseth finished third, Kasey Kahne finished fourth, and Elliott rounded out the top-five.
The race was slowed six times for 32 laps. There were nine different lead changes among five different drivers.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt Tools 400. The race will be broadcasted on Performance Racing Network and FOX beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST.