Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Brad Keselowski wins Atlanta Cup race

4 Comments

Brad Keselowski won Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway after he experienced flu-like symptoms throughout the weekend.

Hours after he took two IV bags in preparation for the race, Keselowski led the final 33 laps and held off a charging Martin Truex Jr. to score the win. It’s his first win since the playoff opener last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It’s Keselowski’s second Atlanta win in three years. He’s finished in the top two in each of his last three starts there.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to one, my wife (Paige), who is standing in the back, she was sick just like I was and she took great care of me along with everybody in the care center,” Keselowski said. “I couldn’t be here today without them. … And Doug Yates. We ran over a piece of debris with probably 50 laps to go and overheated really bad. I thought there was no way this engine would make it to the end. But Doug Yates and his team do a great job.”

The top five was completed by Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.

Truex’s runner-up finish is his best Atlanta result in 21 starts.

“I could taste that one,” Truex told Fox. “I really wanted that first Atlanta win. The 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) rode there in front of us forever and ever running the bottom, and I kept telling him I needed the bottom, and these cars are just so bad in dirty air that he was holding me up really bad.  Once I got around him, I got to (Keselowski) in two laps.  I just needed one more.”

Kyle Larson led a race-high 142 laps before a pit road speeding penalty early in the final stage sent the Chip Ganassi Racing driver deep in the field. He finished 12th.

The highlight of the first two stages of the race was a battle for the lead between Larson and Harvick inside 20 laps to go in Stage 2.

The two drivers swapped the lead three times over 10 laps with Harvick claiming the lead for good with eight laps left when Larson got sideways in Turn 4. Harvick won the stage with a three-second lead over Larson.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

MORE: Race results and point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Kyle Busch bounced back to finish sixth after he cut his right rear tire with 102 laps left in the race, causing the first caution for an incident … Pole-sitter Aric Almirola fought back from a pit road speeding penalty to place eighth … Chris Buescher finished ninth for his best Atlanta result in four starts. It’s his ninth career top 10.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who started second, finished 18th after he was caught speeding on pit road … Ryan Preece placed 35th after he rammed into the back of BJ McLeod’s car on pit road with 53 laps to go.

NOTABLE: Brad Keselowski earned his 60th overall win with Team Penske, making him the winningest driver in the team’s history … Anthony Pasut, the fueler on Chris Buescher’s car, is awake and alert after the Ryan Preece-BJ McLeod pit road incident. Pasut was pinned by McLeod’s car after it was spun by Preece.

WHAT’S NEXT: Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on March 3 on Fox

Martin Truex Jr. blasts Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for holding him up

6 Comments

It may have been better for Martin Truex Jr. if Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race was the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 501.5.

Truex finished second to race winner Brad Keselowski but believed the outcome would have been different if there had been one more lap around the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Man, I could taste that one,” Truex said after the race. “I really wanted that first Atlanta win. The 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) rode there in front of us forever and ever, running the bottom. I kept telling him I needed the bottom, and these cars are just so bad in dirty air that he was holding me up really bad.

“Once I got around him, I got to the 2 (Keselowski) in two laps, so just needed one more (lap). Unfortunately, we had a great car and like I said, the guys did a great job. Just a little upset. We had the best car. We probably should have won that one.”

Truex led just four laps in the 325-lap event, while Keselowski led 33 laps. Kyle Larson, who led a race-high 142 laps, finished 12th.

And even though there were four Toyotas in the top 11 – with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch finishing sixth, Erik Jones seventh and Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin 11th – that did not appease Truex, who once again singled out Stenhouse.

“Yeah, I’m a lot frustrated (by) lapped cars,” he said. “They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame.

“We lined up on that last restart behind all those guys that are a lap down and I know they were racing for the (free pass), which is all good, but once they got strung out, the 17 had a straightaway on me, and he just wouldn’t let me by.

“He just kept hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom and knew that’s where I needed to run. My spotter kept telling him we need the bottom.

“These cars punch such a big hole and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him.

“Hell, I still ran down the 2 (Keselowski) in two laps from half a straightaway. We clearly had the best car and were in position to win. Guys a lap down (Stenhouse finished 18th) have to have a little more respect than that.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

What drivers said after the Atlanta Cup race

1 Comment

Brad Keselowski, winner: “I think any win means a lot, but (60 overall wins with Team Penske is) a big number.  Now I get to wear that yellow Mark Donohue helmet. … We’re going to wear it next week. But what a tremendous honor.  This day is ‑‑ wow, I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’m just excited for this team, first race with the new rules or whatever they’re called now, and to be able to win it, that’s really special, as well, and I know everybody here is excited about that, and just a great day overall for Team Penske and our Ford Mustang.”

Martin Truex Jr., finished 2nd: Yeah, I’m a lot frustrated, you know – lapped cars. They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame. We lined up on that last restart behind all those guys that are a lap down and I know they were racing for the lucky dog, which is all good, but once they got strung out, the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) … he just wouldn’t let me by. He just kept hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom and knew that’s where I needed to run. My spotter kept telling his we need the bottom. These cars punch such a big hole and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him. Hell, I still ran down the 2 (Brad Keselowski) in two laps from half a straightaway. We clearly had the best car and were in position to win. Guys a lap down have to have a little more respect than that.”

Kurt Busch, finished 3rd: “I could say that wasn’t anything fantastic or exciting, but it really was. To finish third on our second outing together and to run with the who’s-who of the sport just shows Ganassi’s got the right stuff. (Kyle) Larson had a tough break. We caught a good break to get on the lead lap with (Joey) Logano and to race in the top five at the end; but all in all, for us to get gelled together to learn what loose and tight was, but man, I just struggled in Turns 3 and 4 and that’s where I got arm-wrestled. They took us but hey, we’re top five in this kind of run.

Kevin Harvick, finished 4th: “We had a good race. It just felt like we were one step behind all the way from Friday. We made it the best it had been there at the end of the run. When we got the shadows in (Turns) 1 and 2 and cooled off our car got way too tight and started chattering the right tire. We made it a lot better at the end though. Our Busch Beer Ford had a solid day though and we were able to adjust on the car and make it better throughout the day. We just got really tight in the middle of the race and we just ran out of time.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 5th: “Our run wasn’t pretty. I knew our car had great speed. Obviously from practice and qualifying. Racing is a different beast, especially at Atlanta. You have to take care of those Goodyears. The way I had it, it felt like I was on top of the track skating around too much. We made good air pressure adjustments and got the grip level back in my race car to where I could compete. It is just weird. You see cars that are kind of up, cars that are down, cars that are dragging, cars that aren’t. Trying to figure out the right scenario for this is going to be interesting. You have to remember, this is a one-off race. There is no track that we go to anymore that is as slick as this and as hard on tires. It will be interesting to see what Las Vegas brings.”

Kyle Busch, finished 6th: “We had a hell of a day. We had a hell of a weekend. On the Cup side, we just had no fun this weekend, so it was really unfortunate for us. Guys worked hard and persevered and we battled through and took probably a 16th, 14th-place finish in our Camry and ended up sixth with it, so not too bad I guess.”

Erik Jones, finished 7th: “It’s not really a lot different honestly than what I thought old Atlanta was a lot like. I don’t think there was any more passing, I don’t think there was any less passing. I think it was kind of the same. It’s just different. Just a different way of going about it. Our DeWalt Camry was pretty good, but just a different race for sure than it has been.”

Aric Almirola, finished 8th: “Clean air was a big deal. Early in the race our car was really fast out front and when we got behind in second it still felt like we were a second or third-place car. Then I made a terrible mistake getting onto pit road and was three-tenths mph too fast and that is too fast. I had to go to the tail and then my goodness was it a challenge. Traffic, cars make so much downforce and we are all going so fast that it is really hard to make passes until late, late, late in the run. So, that is my fault. We had a really fast Smithfield Ford Mustang and it was driver error that made the mistake and that hurt the rest of our day.”

Chris Buescher, finished 9th:  “I knew that 24th-best finish stat (previous best Atlanta finish) and that was disappointing to me. I knew we were going to better it today about after the first stage. Everybody on this Scott Comfort Plus Camaro ZL1 did a great job. This group worked hard. We made big swings to get up there and to start 30th and be able to get a top 10 out of this thing, I’m proud of them. That was fun. That helped get us out of that hole or start to dig us out of that hole we got in with The Big One at Daytona. Just puts everyone in a good mood and Ryan (Preece) was running good too and I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I know something a little bit out of his control. I think this is a sign of good things to come. We’ve got some more work to do, but heck of a start.”

Kyle Larson, finished 12th:  “I had a good day going until I sped (on pit road). My car handled really good and then once I got where I had to restart in the back, I was just really tight. Yeah, I mean, clean air is even more important nowadays than in the past I think, at least at a track like this. That was a little disappointing, but more so just upset at myself for making a big mistake like that.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 20th: “Just had a crazy day. I thought we were going to put ourselves in position to have a solid day. I made a lot of mistakes, way too many mistakes than what you can make at this level to even have a shot to run top five and still found ourselves in position there to do it and just had a right front tire come apart on our Alsco/Red Kap Camaro ZL1. That was the end of it, but the good thing is I feel like it put a little motivation in everybody here at RCR. That is the kind of race cars we have to have at the race track every week to give ourselves a shot. It was fun to drive, fun to pass people and look forward to next week.”

Ty Dillon, finished 25th: “This GEICO Racing team battled all day. We didn’t fire off how we wanted to at the start. Our Camaro ZL1 was just too tight in traffic and would fall off from there. This team kept working though. My crew chief made great changes, and my team had clean stops on pit road. We really had it handling how we needed it to by the middle of Stage 2. We were running similar lap times to the leaders at the end, and I was really happy with it. There is no doubt that our team learned a lot today with this new package. I’m proud of their hustle and that we kept improving throughout the race. Now we’ll turn our focus to Las Vegas.”

Ryan Preece, finished 35th: “I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t speeding. And when I looked up, he (BJ McLeod, No. 52) was coming in the pits. So, it’s a mistake. What are you going to do? It’s just unfortunate for us because we were having a really good run. Like I said, we are going to have some good cars this year. So, if we can keep that, we’ll be really good at Vegas and I’m just really proud of everybody with JTG and Kroger. There’s nothing else you can do other than that. So, I’m looking forward to next week.”

Check back for more.

Results, points following Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta

Leave a comment

Despite a hard charge by Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski held on to win Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Truex finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.

There were five cautions in the race with only two because of on-track incidents.

Click here for the race results.

Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin remains first in the standings with 87 points, followed by Kevin Harvick (79 points), Kyle Busch (78), Kyle Larson (77) and Joey Logano (75).

Keselowski is up to sixth (72 points) with the victory.

Click here for the points standings.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ryan Preece’s day ends early after pit road crash with BJ McLeod

Leave a comment

Ryan Preece, who missed all of the incidents last week at Daytona en route to an impressive eighth-place finish, was victimized by his own error in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

With 52 of 325 laps remaining, Preece had just exited his pit stall when he slammed into the rear of BJ McLeod.

McLeod was attempting to enter his pit stall – eight spots in front of Preece’s stall – when Preece’s No. 47 Chevrolet hit him from behind, spinning McLeod’s car around.

Preece suffered significant front end damage, ending his day. McLeod was able to continue.

Preece said on his team radio that he was looking down at his tachometer when the incident occurred, and that he simply didn’t see McLeod’s car.

“I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t speeding and when I looked up, he was coming into his pit,” Preece told Fox Sports. “It was a mistake. What are you going to do?”

Also caught up in the wreck was Anthony Pasut, fueler for Chris Buescher, Preece’s JTG Daugherty Racing teammate. Pasut was struck by McLeod’s spinning car. According to NASCAR, Pasut was awake and alert and was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

Follow @JerryBonkowski