Keselowski Battles for Top-20 Finish at Dover
October 2, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Autostock
DOVER, Del. (October 2, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 20th in the AAA 400 – the third race in the 2011 Chase for the Championship – at Dover International Speedway (DIS) on Sunday afternoon. With the result, Keselowski fell to the sixth position in the Chase standings, but he is positioned just 14 points out of the lead.
Keselowski began Sunday’s 400-lap event from the 15th position after posting a lap of 22.832 seconds, or 157.673 miles per hour, around the one-mile oval during Saturday’s qualifying session. When the green flag flew to start the event, Keselowski radioed that his car was handling tight in the center of the high-banked DIS corners. As it did in Saturday’s Nationwide Series event, NASCAR mandated a competition caution early in the race so that teams could check their tire wear after rain showers moved through the area overnight, washing away any tire rubber from the racing surface. Miller Lite team crew chief Paul Wolfe called for a two-tire stop, along with a slight air pressure adjustment, and Keselowski picked up valuable track position as he restarted the race in the fourth position on lap 46.
With the “clean” air afforded by the track position, Keselowski was able to maintain his position at the front of the field – eventually assuming the lead for two laps – until he pitted under the green flag at lap 115. Keselowski was still dealing with a tight-handling condition in the center of the corners, but it had begun to improve as the race progressed. Wolfe elected to make a wedge adjustment to loosen up the chassis and when the pit stops cycled through, Keselowski was still running at the front of the pack in the sixth position.
The wedge adjustment had a positive effect on the handling of the “Blue Deuce” and Keselowski began turning lap times as fast as the race leaders. Several times throughout the run, the Miller Lite Dodge was the fastest car on the track as Keselowski positioned his machine just outside the top five. However, the No. 2 car picked up an “aero-push” as Keselowski pulled to the back bumper of another competitor. As a result, Keselowski fell to the 10th position as the race moved past the halfway point.
Following another green-flag pit stop at lap 243, Keselowski radioed that he lost power steering in the Miller Lite Dodge. As he did everything he could to turn the car on the high-speed oval, Keselowski fell back to the 24th position before a caution flag flew for a slight rain shower that moved over the track. The No. 2 crew quickly diagnosed the problem as the power steering belt had been knocked off the car. Quick repairs were made, but the team fell one lap down to the race leaders.
Happy with the handling condition of his car after the work by his crew, Keselowski was determined not to let the setback ruin the day for the team. A caution period at lap 300 gave Keselowski the opportunity to remain on the racetrack to receive the “wave around” that placed him back on the lead lap. However, as the race resumed at lap 306, Wolfe reminded his driver that he would need to pit for tires and fuel within 30 laps. The team hoped that a quick caution period would allow them to visit pit road under the yellow flag, but it never materialized. Keselowski was forced to pit under the green flag at lap 338, as he fell two laps down to the race leaders.
Subsequent caution flags at laps 352 and 359 allowed the Miller Lite team to receive two “Lucky Dog” awards to get both of their laps back. Back on the lead lap in the 20th position, Keselowski once again began to turn some of the fastest laps on the track. However, the “aero-push” that he experienced earlier in the race returned and he was not able to advance his position as he crossed the finish line in 20th-place.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, picked up his second win of the season in Sunday’s AAA 400.
Following Sunday’s result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team sit in the sixth position in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings.
“We had a really good Miller Lite Dodge in clean air,” said Keselowski. “We had a little problem with the power steering belt coming off, lost a lap and by the time we finally got back on the lead lap, we didn’t have any time left to gain back any of the track position we lost. It’s somewhat frustrating. I thought we were good enough to get a solid run out of it, but ended up 20th. That’s the way it goes.”
The fourth race for Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite team in the 2011 Chase for the Championship will be the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, October 9. Live coverage will begin at 2 pm ET on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 90.