Keselowski Battles Tire Issue, Finishes Ninth at Bristol

March 20, 2011

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 19, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, finished ninth in the Scotts EZ Seed 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) on Saturday afternoon. Keselowski showcased a car that could contend for the win before a cut right front tire on lap 181 kept the reigning series champion from a visit to Victory Lane.
Keselowski started the 300-lap race from the 12th position after posting a lap of 15.425 seconds, or 124.395 miles per hour, during Saturday morning's qualifying session. As the event began, Keselowski immediately jumped to the outside lane and began to set his sights on the race leader. NASCAR displayed a competition yellow flag on lap 25 to allow teams to place a new right side tire on their cars, based on excessive tire wear that was noticed during Friday's practice sessions. When the flag was displayed, Keselowski was running in the seventh position. He radioed to his team that he was very happy with the handling of his car and crew chief Todd Gordon elected to only change tires and add fuel. Keselowski restarted the race in the sixth position on lap 32.
On the new set of tires, the No. 22 Dodge developed a tight-handling condition in the center of the high-banked BMS corners. However, Keselowski was able to keep his car running inside the top-three as the race moved past the halfway point. As green-flag pit stops began to cycle through – with Keselowski and race leader Kyle Busch still to make their stops – the right front tire on the No. 22 Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge let go and Keselowski made contact with the outside wall in turn four on lap 181. While the body damage on the No. 22 was minor, the right front suspension was bent, forcing Keselowski down pit road twice for repairs before he restarted the race in the eighth position on lap 188.
Still on the lead lap, Keselowski carefully navigated the "World's Fastest Half-Mile" until another caution period on lap 199 gave the team an opportunity to continue to work on the suspension. After continued repairs, Keselowski did a good job as he kept his car at the front of the field over the final laps of the race. His effort was rewarded as he was able to grab his second-consecutive top-10 finish of the season.
Following Saturday's result, Keselowski and the Discount Tire Dodge Challenger team sit 17th in the Nationwide Series owner point standings.
"Just a disappointing day for everyone on the No. 22 Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge Challenger," said Keselowski. "We had a very fast car today. The guys worked hard all weekend and made this car better and better. By the time they dropped the green flag, it was a rocket. I think we could have worked on it a bit more and maybe could have run with (Busch's winning) 18 car at the end, but it wasn't our day. We'll just pick ourselves up and try again in California."
Keselowski and the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team will move to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Saturday, March 26, for the Royal Purple 300. Coverage can be seen live beginning at 5:30 pm ET on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 128.