Keselowski's impressive comeback puts him in favorable Playoff position
Team owner Roger Penske told Brad Keselowski prior to the AAA Texas 500, “a good, blue-collar day is what we need.”
Little did the Captain know how hard his alpha driver would have to work to finish fifth.
But Keselowski delivered with a remarkable drive at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
“It was a nice response for sure," Keselowski said. "That’s what you hope for. We’ve had really great efforts the last two weeks. We probably arguably deserve a little better result, but I’m still proud of the effort with strong, solid days with top fives."
Keselowski started 10th in the race but contact with Kyle Busch on the first lap knocked the fender in on the No. 2 Wurth Ford and cut the left rear tire. He was forced to pit and dropped to 39th in the field, one lap down.
Without a caution in the first stage, Keselowski was mired in traffic for 85 laps and didn’t receive the lucky dog until the second caution on Lap 99 of 334.
“We had a pretty good car,” Keselowski said. “Something happened on Lap 1 and basically we started the race last and a lap-and-a-half down. That cost us a bunch of stage points, but we rallied with a solid effort to get back to fifth. I’m happy for that.”
Keselowski worked his way into the top 20 by Lap 116, but didn’t place in the top 10 in either stage. He finished 14th after the second segment on Lap 170 and restarted 11th for the second half of the race. Keselowski climbed up to ninth over the next 10 laps prior to the fourth caution triggered by Landon Cassill. He was seventh on the Lap 186 restart and broke into the top-five—where he finished—on Lap 190.
Cushion leaving Texas
Still, entering the race Keselowski sat third int he Monster Energy Cup Series standings, 38-points behind Truex and with a 29-point cushion over fifth-place. After picking up 32-points on Sunday at Texas, Keselowski’s advantage is just 19-points over current fifth-place driver Denny Hamlin.
“I need more than that,” Keselowski said. “I’d feel confident if we were locked in. These races you don’t know what’s gonna happen.
“I still want more. I hate to give up those stage points. Nineteen points isn’t terrible for a cushion. We’ll need to go and have a solid race at Phoenix next week and hope none of the other guys win. It’s doable, but it’s gonna be a nail-biter next week for sure.”
Keselowski has yet to win at Phoenix Raceway. In 16 starts, he has posted five wins and eight top 10s—including eight in his last 11 starts on the one-mile track.
But after showing speed and scoring his first top-five finish on an intermediate track in the Playoffs, there was a silver lining in Keselowski’s day.
“This is the best we ran on a mile-and-a-half in some time, so I’m happy about that,” Keselowski said. “I’m disappointed with the way the race started. It probably cost us 10 or more points, but I’m happy with the rebound.”
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