Keselowski Clinches Chase Spot at Atlanta Motor Speedway
September 7, 2011
HAMPTON, Ga. (September 6, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished sixth in the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) on Tuesday afternoon. Persistent rain showers from Tropical Storm Lee pushed the race back to a Tuesday start for the first time since 2008.
Keselowski’s sixth consecutive top-10 finish, allowed him to secure the No. 1 wild card position for the 2011 Chase for the Championship. He now owns a 2.6 average finish over the last five races and will enter the playoffs as one of the hottest drivers in the series.
Keselowski began the 325-lap event from the 14th position after posting a lap of 29.949 seconds, or 185.115 miles per hour, around the 1.54-mile oval during Friday’s qualifying session. As rain washed the racing surface clean of any tire rubber, Keselowski elected to stick to the bottom of the track when the race began. AMS is one of the most abrasive tracks on the circuit and grip is always at a premium. Keselowski radioed to the Miller Lite team that he lacked grip as he applied the throttle, which kept him from turning laps fast enough to crack the top 10. Crew chief Paul Wolfe brought Keselowski down pit road at lap 13, under the yellow flag, for four tires and a left-side wedge adjustment. No fuel was allowed during pit stops until the NASCAR-mandated competition caution at lap 30 and Keselowski restarted the race in the 22nd position at lap 17.
The combination of the wedge adjustment and Keselowski moving up to the middle portion of the racetrack resulted in improved handling of the Miller Lite Dodge. On lap 27, Keselowski made his first appearance into the top 10 in the running order. After taking a lap 36 restart in seventh position, Keselowski made a strong move around the bottom of the racetrack to pass three competitors and move into the top five for the first time.
Despite its improved handling, the Miller Lite Dodge still lacked grip exiting the high-speed AMS corners. Wolfe continued to make adjustments to the wedge, track bar and air pressure on the car to give his driver the grip he needed. Great pit stops by the No. 2 crew kept Keselowski inside the top 10 despite the handling of his machine.
As the race progressed, the myriad adjustments began to translate into more on-track speed for the Miller Lite team. Keselowski remained inside the top 10 as the race moved past the halfway point and he began to show signs of contending for the win and the $3 million prize for winning the Sprint Summer Showdown.
Rain brought out the caution flag for the first time on the day at lap 201. The race went under the red flag for 25 minutes as the track-drying process began at AMS. The race resumed for only three laps before more precipitation began to fall, putting the end of the event in jeopardy. However, the skies cleared and rain would not become a factor again.
Over the final 100 laps, the Miller Lite Dodge ran the best it had all day. Though he still required more grip on corner exit, Keselowski fought to keep his Dodge inside the top five as the laps would down. He was not able to hold off the No. 14 car of Tony Stewart over the last three miles of racing action and crossed the finish line in the sixth position.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, finished fourth in Tuesday’s AdvoCare 500.
Following Saturday’s result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team remain 11th in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings. The team did wrap up the top wild card position for the Chase, which begins in Chicago on Sept. 18.
“Well, today was a huge confidence booster because we took a bad day and got a good finish out of it,” said Keselowski. “That’s exactly what you’ve got to do in the Chase and today was a huge confidence booster, as big as any of the other races. That’s what we need to do going into the Chase, bring home cars without scratches on ‘em and get solid finishes when we’re not at our best. I’m proud of my guys and everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge team.”
Before beginning the playoffs, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite team will next compete in the Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, September 10. Live coverage will begin at 7:30 pm ET on the ABC network. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 90.