Keselowski Finishes Fourth in Wild Race at Talladega
I had a great run with my teammate Sam Hornish.
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished fourth in the Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway (TSS) on Saturday afternoon. The finish represented Keselowski's second-consecutive top-five NNS result.
Keselowski started the race from the 16th position after posting a lap of 53.874 seconds, or 177.748 miles per hour, during the Friday morning qualifying session. As the race began, Keselowski immediately searched out his teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., in an attempt to execute the two-car draft that has come to dominate restrictor-plate racing this season. Unfortunately, several competitors were in between the two Penske Racing drivers and Keselowski had to duck in behind the No. 18 of eventual race winner, Kyle Busch, to work the draft. The two set sail for the front of the field and Keselowski was able to push Busch into the lead on lap 13. Three laps later, Busch returned the favor as he assisted Keselowski into his first lead of the race.
After the first caution flag of the race on lap 23, during which crew chief Todd Gordon called Keselowski down pit road for two tires and fuel, Keselowski restarted the event in the 11th position. On this second run of the race, the reigning NNS champion began working with the No. 16 of Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne. The two drivers were able to maintain their position inside the top-10 as the race progressed. Bayne pushed Keselowski into the lead on lap 43 as the driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge noted that he was pleased by the patience of the young Bayne. Great work by the No. 22 pit crew on a yellow-flag pit stop at lap 46 saw Keselowski exit pit road with his lead intact.
As the race moved past the first 50 laps, Keselowski chose to yield some track position in order to stay out of the aggressive racing that was taking place at the front of the field. On lap 75, Keselowski was able to hook up with the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger driven Hornish on a race restart. By lap 83, Hornish had pushed the two to the front of the field as Keselowski reclaimed the lead.
On lap 88, Keselowski was involved in a multi-car incident that was triggered when the No. 33 car driven by Clint Bowyer tapped Busch and sent him into Keselowski. While the damage was not severe, Keselowski was forced to pit twice for repairs. He was able to maintain his position on the lead lap as the No. 22 crew did a great job in making the necessary repairs. Once the race restarted on lap 93, Keselowski and Hornish once again set their sights on the front of the field. In less than 10 laps, the Penske pair was running in the first and second positions, with Keselowski back in the lead.
While it appeared that it could be a one-two finish for Penske Racing, Hornish lost his rear bumper on lap 111 and, following accidental bump-drafting contact by Keselowski, he spun his car onto the TSS apron. Hornish was able to continue, but Keselowski had lost his key drafting partner. As the race finished with two green-white-checkered flag finishes, Keselowski pushed the No. 87 of Joe Nemechek into the third position as the driver of the Discount Tire Dodge crossed the finish line in fourth place.
Following Friday's result, Keselowski and the Discount Tire Dodge Challenger team sit 13th in the Nationwide Series owner point standings.
"What a wild day," said Keselowski. "That's what Talladega is known for. We were in position at the end with Joe (Nemechek). We did everything right today. It was great running with him and I thought that we had a shot at the win. We just didn't get it. I'm proud of my team. They gave me a great car with incredible speed. This Discount Tire Dodge is fast. I had a great run with my teammate Sam Hornish. I felt like we could really do something special there at the end of the race when we got hooked up and made a move to the front. That one deal was bad when his rear bumper cover came loose and I spun him out. I wish we could have gotten back together because he had a fast Dodge. Just a great day for us at Penske Racing – a solid finish (fourth-place) that's for sure."
Keselowski and the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team will visit Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday, April 23, for the Nashville 300.