LEBANON, Tenn. (July 23, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished 12th in the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday night. Keselowski started from the pole and raced at the front of the field for the first 60 laps, but engine issues ultimately prevented a top finish. The reigning NNS champion battled for the final 114 laps with an ailing motor, but he managed to finish on the lead lap.
Keselowski began the 225-lap race from the first position after posting a lap of 30.871 seconds, or 155.47 miles per hour, during the Saturday afternoon qualifying session. When the green flag flew to begin the race, Keselowski and fellow Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards drove away from the field. Keselowski's only feedback for the team was that he wanted his race car to have a bit tighter handling condition in the center of the corners. However, as the initial run progressed, Keselowski was very pleased with the No. 22 Discount Tire Challenger. When the cars entered pit road for the first stops on lap 60, Keselowski and Edwards were still battling for the lead. Crew chief Todd Gordon elected to make air pressure adjustments and fill the No. 22 machine with fuel. Keselowski then rejoined the field in the second position.
As the second run matured, Keselowski began to experience a very loose-handling condition on the Discount Tire Dodge. The first caution of the race gave the No. 22 crew the opportunity to make adjustments on lap 83. The team made a track bar adjustment and reversed the air pressure changes from the initial pit stop. The changes proved successful as Keselowski rocketed to the lead shortly after taking the green flag again on lap 87. By lap 89, the No. 22 Challenger was the fastest car on the track.
On lap 111, spotter Joey Meier asked Keselowski to report water and oil temperatures in the car, suspecting an issue with the No. 22 Challenger. Keselowski reported that the fluid temperatures were abnormally high, indicating that there indeed was a problem. Gordon and the crew began to investigate the issue, identifying a failing cylinder, spark plug or valve spring as potential causes. Keselowski was instructed to continue pushing until there was an opportunity to fix the problem without losing track position. Keselowski fell back to sixth place before another caution flag flew on lap 128. Gordon called Keselowski down pit road to inspect the issue under the hood. The team determined that the problem was an internal engine issue and Gordon released Keselowski back onto the track with a full tank of fuel. Positioned as the last car on the lead lap, Keselowski returned to his pit stall for fresh Goodyear tires on lap 130.
Keselowski managed the ailing engine carefully over the next 50 laps. As he dropped to the 12th position by lap 175, Keselowski reported that the No. 22 Discount Tire machine was handling virtually perfectly everywhere on the race track and his only issue was the motor's lack of power. On lap 176, NASCAR officials waived the caution flag citing debris on the racing surface. Gordon took advantage of the caution period and called Keselowski into the pits to check a spark plug wire. The crew worked diligently to investigate under the hood, while the car was filled with fuel. Gordon then released Keselowski ahead of the pace car in order to remain on the lead lap. On the following lap, Keselowski returned to his stall to continue the work under the hood. The crew was unable to repair the engine issue before Keselowski returned to the track once again to salvage his lead-lap position.
Over the final 40 laps, Keselowski battled Scott Wimmer for 13th place. Running just a half second off the leaders' lap times, Keselowski showed incredible patience and skill in climbing from 14th to his finishing position of 12th.
"I'm not sure what happened with the motor," said Keselowski after the race. "Something broke and we're still not really sure. It's a little bit disappointing because we had such a fast Discount Tire Dodge at the start of the race. No real indication that something was wrong under the hood. We thought it might have been a bad spark plug so we came in under caution, but it looks to be something internal. It's tough. We had a car that was capable of winning the race. We led a ton of laps before the motor issue and then just had to ride around hoping that the motor wouldn't let go. We have great stuff at Penske. It was just one of them racing deals. We'll take it back to the shop and figure out what happened."
The No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team will visit Lucas Oil Raceway on Saturday, July 30 for the 30th Annual Kroger 200. Live coverage will begin at 7:30 pm ET on ESPN2. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.