Fifth-Consecutive Top-Five Finish at Richmond for Keselowski
April 30, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Autostock
RICHMOND, Va. (April 29, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished fifth in the Bubba Burger 250 at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on Friday afternoon. The finish represented Keselowski's fourth-consecutive top-five NNS result and fifth straight series top-five at RIR.
Keselowski, the defending winner of this event, started the 250-lap race from the 10th position after posting a lap of 21.796 seconds, or 123.876 miles per hour, during the Friday morning qualifying session. This placed Keselowski on the outside line to start the race. As the green flag fell, the outside line did not move as he anticipated and Keselowski fell back a few spots before finding his rhythm. On lap 10, Keselowski radioed to crew chief Todd Gordon that he had a small brake vibration. Keselowski made the decision not to push his car early in the race so that he would have brakes at the end of the event.
The race, which featured only two caution periods, settled into a long green-flag run and as the laps increased, the handling condition of the No. 22 Dodge deteriorated dramatically. Keselowski described it as an issue with the left front tire, which was not properly gripping the racing surface. He brought his car down pit road on lap 77, several laps earlier than projected, as he was losing too much time to the race leaders. Gordon called for an air pressure adjustment, along with the addition of a spring rubber into the right rear of the car. Keselowski returned to the track two laps down to the leaders, but he gained those laps back as the other competitors stopped for service.
Despite gaining his lead-lap positioning back, Keselowski was unable to keep the leader behind him. He again lost a lap to Denny Hamlin, the eventual race winner, on lap 123. Fortunately, Keselowski was able to maintain his position as the first car one lap down. Just one lap later, the first caution flag waved and Keselowski earned the "Lucky Dog" award to return to lead-lap racing. Under the caution, the No. 22 crew adjusted the right rear wedge in the Discount Tire machine to try to give their driver better handling in the car.
While Keselowski acknowledged that the adjustments improved the handling, the car still continued to deteriorate over the length of a long green-flag run. On lap 181, Keselowski once again pitted earlier than expected and fell two laps down to the race leaders. By taking advantage of his fresher tires, Keselowski was able to gain one of his laps back on the track by overtaking Hamlin on lap 221. As the second, and final, caution flag of the day came out on lap 242, Keselowski remained on the racing surface to pick up the "wave around." This placed him back on the lead lap, where he was able to bring his car home in the fifth position as the race went one lap past its scheduled distance.
Following Friday's result, Keselowski and the Discount Tire Dodge Challenger team sit eighth in the Nationwide Series owner point standings.
"It was a good night for this Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge," said Keselowski. "Who would ever think that the Nationwide Series would almost go green the entire race. We just didn't have a long-run car tonight. The tires really fell off at about 30 laps or so and it's kind of what we've been fighting all year. We pitted early, cycled through and we ended up back on the lead lap. I'm not sure how that worked out. I'm happy for my Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday team to get me back to that position. We somehow got a top-five out of the deal."
Keselowski and the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team will visit Darlington Raceway on Friday, May 6, for the Royal Purple 200. Live coverage will begin at 7:30 pm EST on ESPN2. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 128.