Keselowski Finishes 13th in First Career Cup Race at Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 21, 2010) -- Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Cup Series, finished 13th in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on...
Keselowski Finishes 13th in First Career Cup Race at Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 21, 2010) -- Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Cup Series, finished 13th in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. The first-year Penske Racing driver capitalized on great pit strategy to keep his car in position for a potential top-10 finish in his first career series start at the .533-mile oval.
Rain showers were in the forecast for the Bristol area on Sunday. They would become a factor before the end of the event as the race would be halted twice for a total of 40 laps.
Keselowski took the green flag Sunday afternoon from the 36th position after a near-spin during the Friday qualifying session. However, crew chief Jay Guy devised a game plan that would allow the team to gain crucial track position and he began to execute it under the first caution period on lap 40. While many of the competitors chose to come down pit road, Keselowski remained on the track and he would restart the event from the top spot in the running order on lap 46.
Despite having older tires on his Dodge Charger, Keselowski was able to keep his car inside the top-10 until his first pit stop on lap 116. He radioed to Guy that the No. 12 Dodge was handling tight in the center of both ends of the track and the crew made a small air pressure adjustment to allow the car to turn better.
The first caution flag for rain fell at lap 126 with Keselowski running in the eighth position. He continued his strong top-10 run when the race resumed and over the next 100 laps he displayed the necessary "give and take" attitude needed to have success at the tight BMS oval.
After restarting the race following a lap 204 caution, Keselowski called to the pits to describe a continued tight-handling condition on his Penske Dodge Charger. This issue would result in Keselowski falling outside of the top-10 while the crew began to diagnose the problem. Several adjustments had no effect on the chassis and Keselowski dropped to 19th in the running order, his lowest position since the start of the race.
The team dodged potential disaster as a 13-car accident in Turn 3 happened directly in front of Keselowski on lap 343. He was able to drive through the melee while only suffering minor body damage to the right side of his Dodge Charger. Fearing that he may have "flat-spotted" his tires while navigating the spinning cars, Keselowski brought his car down pit road for his fifth pit stop of the day. Air pressure adjustments by Guy and the team proved to be the right call as Keselowski began marching back towards the top-10 following the lap 358 restart.
Rain reappeared over BMS on lap 390 and, once again, Keselowski remained on the track while most of the other drivers visited pit lane. This would give Keselowski the top spot for the second time and it looked as though there was a chance that the race would be called early due to rain and Keselowski would make the trip to Victory Lane. However, the skies cleared and racing resumed on lap 411. As the laps wound down, Keselowski's worn tires placed him at a disadvantage to the cars with fresher rubber. Seeing a chance to gain position before the checkered flag, Guy called his driver down pit lane for the final time for a two-tire stop under a lap 482 caution. However, Keselowski was not able to hold his position inside the top-10 and fell back to 13th place at the conclusion of the race.
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish, Jr. finished third and 32nd, respectively.
Following the fifth race of the season, Keselowski is ranked 30th in the 2010 NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings.
"A great run for our Penske Dodge Charger," said Keselowski. "We did what we had to do and that was run hard, run smart and bring the car home in one piece. We did a great job on pit road and on the track today. We got the most that we could out of our race car today. That's great for our team. It's a big step for everyone on our Penske Dodge team. The guys back at the shop gave us a great race car for Bristol. I'm proud of our team's effort. We'll go back at work on getting the car a little faster."
The No. 12 Penske Dodge team will remain close to its home base of Mooresville, N.C. for next weekend's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.