Keselowski Finishes in 26th Place at Fontana
October 11, 2010
During the parade laps prior to the start of Sunday's race, Keselowski radioed to the Penske Dodge crew and the sponsors in attendance that he appreciated all of their support and hard work during the race weekend. He also mentioned that he was looking forward to a good result after a strong second-place run in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway.
Sunday's race started under clear skies, hot temperatures and a gusty breeze. Keselowski, who started in the 25th position after he posted a fast lap time of 39.513 seconds at a speed of 182.219 mph during Friday's qualifying, immediately began to work his way through the 43 car field when he saw the green flag. By lap 25, Keselowski had made his up to 15th in the running order.
On lap 27, Keselowski reported that the car felt different on every lap, depending on the traffic that was in front of him. He was able to hold a top-15 position through the first round of pit stops, which occurred under green-flag conditions. As the race progressed, the driver of the No. 12 car radioed to crew chief Jay Guy that the car was handling tight in traffic.
At one point early in the race, Keselowski ran as high as seventh place after electing to stay out on the racing surface when a caution flag flew on lap 40. However, on lap 50, Keselowski reported that the Penske Dodge Charger "severely brushed the wall." Just a few laps later, a caution flag gave the No. 12 crew an opportunity to assess the situation and take corrective measures.
As Keselowski came to pit road, the Penske Dodge crew changed four tires, topped off the fuel and made repairs to the right rear of the machine. Keselowski then had to return to the pits for further repairs, but he was able maintain his lead-lap status. Once again, the crew worked on the damage to the car and made adjustments to compensate for its ill handling.
When the green flag flew and the race resumed, Keselowski radioed that the car was running "crazy loose" just prior to the incident when he brushed the wall. The Rochester Hill, Mich. native further reported that he just lost the car entering the turn without warning.
By lap 80, Keselowski relayed to his crew that the Penske Dodge was handling very similar to the beginning of the race. At this point, he was running inside the top-30 as he attempted to find a good line around the track that would allow him to work his way toward the front of the field.
By the halfway point of the race, the driver of the No. 12machine reported that the car was handling free entering Turn 3 on short runs, but it was tolerable on longer runs. A caution flag on lap 113 gave the Penske Dodge crew an opportunity to do more work on the right-rear quarter panel that was damaged by the earlier brush with the wall. With a determined effort, the crew was able to address the problem and also made adjustments to try and fix the handling issues that were reported by Keselowski.
As temperatures began to warm throughout the afternoon race, cooling the engine also became an issue on No. 12 car. But quick work by the pit crew alleviated the condition and the red Dodge Charger was able to stay in the fight.
Over the waning laps of the 400-mile event, Keselowski made a valiant effort to move to the front of the field, but a combination of late-race caution flags, an untimely front splitter issue and a tire vibration all combined to result in a hard-fought 26th-place finish.
"I got in the wall a third of the way through the race and tore up the right-rear quarter panel," said Keselowski, who remained 25th in the Cup Series driver standings with Sunday's result. "The guys did a heck of a job fixing it. We were starting to climb back up through the field and the splitter broke. We spent the rest of the race getting that fixed. We got it fixed and started making progress, but lost it at the end again. It was one of those days when absolutely nothing went right. Our car was actually decent, so it's frustrating that we couldn't get a better finish out of it."
The NASCAR Cup Series will return to action next Saturday night, October 16, in the Bank America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race will be seen on the ABC television network beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET and will also be broadcast on PRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 128.