Keselowski Perseveres To Finish 18th at Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 20, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Cup Series, finished 18th in the Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) on Sunday afternoon. Keselowski displayed great patience and a fast racecar as he overcame early-race damage to record a solid, lead-lap finish.
Keselowski started the 500-lap race from the 23rd position after posting a lap of 15.215 seconds, or 126.112 miles per hour, during Friday's qualifying session. When the race began, Keselowski attempted to settle in to a nice rhythm before the mandated competition caution on lap 50 to check tire wear. Before the caution period, however, as the cars in front of him slowed to avoid the No. 31 car of Jeff Burton, Keselowski was hit from behind by the No. 00 car of David Reutimann. The contact sent the Miller Lite Dodge spinning into other cars. Keselowski remained on the lead lap, but had to visit pit road for repairs.
Despite the early work to the car's body, the No. 2 Miller Lite machine developed a tight-handling condition as the race resumed. When the competition caution flag came out at lap 50, crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to free up the chassis with a wedge adjustment. When the race went back under the green flag on lap 57, Keselowski radioed that the handling had improved, but he needed a little more help. Keselowski began turning some of the fastest laps of the race, but the lost track position resulted in him losing a lap to the race leaders just as the event moved past the 100-lap mark.
A lap 128 caution period presented Wolfe and the team another opportunity to give Keselowski what he needed to get back to lead-lap racing. However, bad luck struck again as Keselowski radioed that he had a flat tire as the race resumed on lap 137. He attempted to nurse the car back to pit road, but the No. 2 Dodge wound up spinning on lap 138, as Keselowski lost another lap to the leaders.
With more than 60 percent of the race still remaining, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team rallied together and developed a plan to get back on the lead lap. By moving to the top of the racetrack, Keselowski significantly improved his forward bite. He began to pass – and drive away – from several lead lap cars as Wolfe and the crew continued to make adjustments to the chassis.
The team all agreed that Keselowski should remain on the track under a lap 428 caution period, which allowed the Michigan-born driver to receive a "wave around" pass to gain one of his two laps back. By continuing to turn some of the fastest laps on the track, Keselowski raced his way into position for the "Lucky Dog" award back to lead-lap racing, which he earned when the caution flag flew on lap 458. The team had executed its plan to perfection, but Keselowski had to restart the race from the tail end of the field. The event finished without another incident before he was able to make up the necessary track position to get to the front of the field.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, finished seventh Sunday in the Jeff Byrd 500.
Following Sunday's result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team sit 21st in the Cup Series driver point standings and 21st in the owner point rankings.
"I'm telling you, this Miller Lite Dodge was much better than an 18th-place car today," said Keselowski. "Despite being torn up and running a couple of laps down for most of the race, we sure did pass a lot of cars today. I'm excited about that and excited about the speed we had today. We just continue to get caught up in situations not of our own making. But if we continue to have cars like we did today, the finishes will come."
Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite team will move to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 27.
-source: penske racing