Joey Logano was the bright spot in the Southern 500 finishing order for Team Penske, but he had just as hard-fought a night as his teammates.
Logano finished third, grabbing a few extra spots late after Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott tangled for the race lead. Logano’s No. 22 Ford Mustang was the only one from the Penske camp that finished inside the top 10, and he did so with a mangled race car.
On the final lap of the second stage, a flat tire sent Logano into the wall. Then, on the Lap 236 restart to kick off the third stage, a chain reaction in the pack damaged Logano’s hood and left-rear fender. Thankfully, a caution flew on Lap 246 that allowed the team time to work on the car.
“We weren’t that slow with the damage, to be honest with you, which was OK, but it was going to be hard to change the tires and things like that,” said Logano. “You had to take your lumps and fix it correctly. … It’s never good when you pull into the pit stall and you shut the motor off so it doesn’t get hot, and I did that twice tonight, so that’s never a good sign. But top three after that is great.
“The race just kind of played out at the end where we wanted it to. Maybe not at the end of the second stage, but the end of the race when the other caution came out (with 47 laps to go), which cycled us to 10th and then we had a good pit stop that cycled us to sixth, and then I was able to get a couple on the restarts and maybe a couple of lucky ones with the leaders hitting the wall.”
Brad Keselowski finished 11th, and he too had a damaged race car. Keselowski was a part of the second caution of the night on Lap 82 when he hit the wall and needed right-side repairs. The No. 2 team fell off the lead lap and outside the top 30.
It took until a caution on Lap 181 for Keselowski to get back on the lead lap. It was a well-timed caution for Keselowski, who had pitted just laps before and had cycled onto the lead lap. From there, Keselowski and his team spent the rest of the night fighting to regain track position.
“Jeremy Bullins (crew chief) and everyone on the Discount Tire team did a great job tonight,” said Keselowski. “I made a mistake early in the race, but we worked together and made a good recovery.”
A long night for Blaney started with pre-race inspection.
Blaney’s team lost 10 driver and owner points for improperly mounted ballast, which they admitted was a five-pound bag of lead accidentally left in the car. Crew chief Todd Gordon was ejected, and Travis Geisler called the shots during the race.
Forced to start at the rear, Blaney had made it inside the top 15 at the end of the first stage. Forced to pit under the green at the start of the second stage for a flat left-rear tire, he fell off the lead lap. Blaney took the wave around at a Lap 179 caution and then found trouble again with damage suffered on the same restart his teammate, Logano, wound up with bent fenders.
“Definitely wasn’t our night for our Menards/Maytag team,” Blaney said of his 24th-place finish. “We had the inspection penalty and lost points before the race started and had some bad breaks. We’ll get ready for Richmond and Bristol and try to gain ground back in the playoffs.”
Logano is third on the playoff grid and has a 27-point advantage on the cutline. Keselowski sits fourth on the grid with a 22-point advantage on the cutline. Blaney is last on the playoff grid in a 17-point deficit.