For the first time this season, Team Penske put all three of their cars in the top five of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. In Sunday’s Auto Club 400, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney finished second, third and fifth respectively.
That’s a solid day for any team. But, to come that close and not to win, it was a tad frustrating for them. The silver lining is, no one had anything for Kyle Busch anyways. The Penske trio knew that. They were just hoping that when the door opened for Busch’s pit road speeding penalty after the conclusion of the second stage, that it became their race to lose.
Keselowski, inherited the lead on Lap 122 when Busch was penalized and would lead the next 38 circuits around the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval. Busch, stayed out to take over the lead again when Keselowski pitted, but after the pit cycle was over, Ryan Blaney was shown as the leader in his No. 12 Ford. Busch, stayed out on a longer sequence again and even caught a lucky caution, but Keselowski and Joey Logano got the lead back and would lead the next five laps.
Busch though, stormed by each and took over the lead for the final time on Lap 174 and never looked back. The Penske’s were the best in the “next class.”
“We were racing hard and no matter who got to the lead, the 18 was going to pass us,” said Logano after his fourth top 10 finish of the season. “He was the best car today. We have some work to do to get faster but the team did a great job today. We held strong today with the Auto Club Ford Mustang. You want to win at the home track of your sponsor. We gave it a solid run. I hate being that close. The last few laps you are running up against the wall and he had a big enough lead to kind of cruise a little and you are just hoping a lap car gets in the way or something. It was solid. We have a lot of momentum on this race team right now.”
Keselowski, finished behind Logano for his third top two finish over the last four weeks.
“We were really good and got to the lead there on that last run but I just couldn’t quite keep it there,” said Keselowski. “It was a good effort by the team and we were right there in position and we gave it all we had.”
Keselowski, said that Busch’s car was too fast through the corners today and that he gave it all he could to catch up.
“I gave all I had for him. I got in front of him and tried my best to hold him off, we just fell off too much.”
Blaney, got back on track with a second straight top five run. See, he was caught up in the “Big One” at Daytona only to see two tire problems the next two weeks relegate him to 22nd place results. Last week in Phoenix, he started on the pole and finished third. On Sunday in Fontana, he got another top five.
“We ran pretty decent all day. We just weren’t very good the first run but we got a lot better. We had a lap and a half on our tires when the caution came out. I thought if I could control the race from the front row and be the leader that I might be able to hold on because I thought our car was pretty good at the time. I was fourth by the time we got to turn one. I got no push. It took 10 laps for it to come in and we were eighth and drove back to fifth. We had a really fast PPG Ford Mustang, we just never got the lead or track position with equal tires and that hurt us but overall not a bad day.”