Keselowski Scores First Nationwide Series Win of Season at Kentucky Speedway
Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), scored his first win of 2011 in the Feed The Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Friday night. The reigning NNS series champion dominated the event – leading the most laps – but he worked hard to save fuel over the waning laps to ensure the victory.
Keselowski began the 200-lap race from the fifth position after posting a lap of 31.177 seconds, or 173.205 miles per hour, during the Friday afternoon qualifying session. When the green flag flew to begin the race, Keselowski radioed that his car was handling a bit tight in the center of the corners on the 1.5-mile oval, but it did not stop him from immediately turning some of the fastest laps on the track. Despite developing a loose-handling condition as the initial run progressed, the Discount Tire machine was the fastest car on the track late in the run. When the first caution flag of the day flew at lap 44, crew chief Todd Gordon called his driver down pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments that included track bar and air pressure changes. Keselowski restarted the race in the fourth position at lap 48.
On the ensuing restart, Keselowski immediately jumped to the outside line and moved into the second position by the time the next circuit was completed. After radioing that his Discount Tire Dodge was tighter than the previous run, Gordon brought Keselowski down pit road for fuel only, with a reversal of the previous track bar adjustment at lap 65. This strategy – along with a fast pit stop – allowed Keselowski to assume the lead at lap 69, while the race was still under the yellow flag. The race returned to green-flag conditions at lap 71.
After returning to the track in the lead spot, Keselowski wasted little time in showing the rest of the field that he had the car to beat. His lap of 31.115 seconds, at lap 75, was three-tenths faster than the rest of the field. As the race fell under the yellow flag for the third time on the night, Keselowski radioed that he was “very happy” with the handling of his Discount Tire Dodge. Gordon called for another slight track bar adjustment, along with four fresh Goodyear radials, on the next stop and Keselowski returned to the track with the lead at lap 106.
The No. 33 car of Kevin Harvick tried to maneuver his way around Keselowski on the restart, but the No. 22 Dodge proved to be too powerful and it was able to keep command over the field. Keselowski was able to consistently turn laps in the low 31-second bracket, despite a handling condition that moved slightly to the tight side as the run progressed. After pulling down pit road for the final time on lap 134, under the final yellow flag of the evening, Gordon called for fuel only on the Discount Tire Dodge. This put Keselowski back in the lead on the restart, though it appeared that the car might come up a couple of laps short on fuel from making it to the end of the race.
Following a good battle with Harvick over the final 61 laps, Keselowski proved that he had the best power and fuel mileage on the night. He crossed the finish line in the first position after leading a race-high 132 laps over the course of the event.
Following Friday’s result, Keselowski and the No. 22 team are ranked eighth in the Nationwide Series owner point standings.
“Our Discount Tire Dodge Challenger was really fast tonight,” said Keselowski. “It was a complete package tonight; a great Discount Tire Dodge Challenger with great fuel mileage. Great pit stops. Just a complete package. That’s what it takes to win. These guys are good. Carl (Edwards) and his team have been really fast all year. Kevin (Harvick) was no exception tonight, along with Kyle (Busch). It feels good to win here in Kentucky.”