Keselowski Starts First, Finishes Eighth at New Hampshire
July 16, 2011LOUDON, N.H. (July 16, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Ruby Tuesday Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished eighth in the New England 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) on Saturday afternoon. The reigning Nationwide Series champion had to endure a wild finish that saw the race extended by six laps before he picked up his 12th top-10 finish of 2011.
Keselowski began the 200-lap race from the pole position after posting a lap of 29.438 seconds, or 129.384 miles per hour, during the Friday afternoon qualifying session. It marked the first NNS pole won this season for Keselowski, and the ninth series pole of his career. He chose the inside lane to begin the race, but the outside lane proved to be better as the green flag fell and Keselowski was forced back to the second position. He radioed to crew chief Todd Gordon that his Ruby Tuesday machine was running loose all around the racetrack, but he was able to keep his car inside the top-five until the first round of pit stops, which came under the yellow flag at lap 34. Gordon called for air pressure and track bar adjustments and Keselowski restarted the race in the fourth position at lap 37.
Despite the adjustments, Keselowski continued to deal with a loose-handling condition as the race moved toward the halfway mark. While he could consistently turn fast laps, the Ruby Tuesday Dodge was just too loose on corner entry and exit for Keselowski to challenge for the lead. Under a lap 94 caution period, Gordon and the team made more aggressive track bar and air pressure adjustments in an attempt to tighten up the chassis for their driver. Fast work by the Ruby Tuesday crew picked up one spot for Keselowski on pit road and he restarted the race in the second position at lap 100.
Gordon kept his driver on the racing surface despite a rash of yellow flags immediately following the halfway point in the race. Keselowski did not come down pit road until a lap 116 caution period, as the team was in its fuel window. Gordon called for a fuel only stop with a wedge adjustment and Keselowski beat the rest of the competitors off pit road, but he lined up in the fourth position when the race resumed at lap 124.
Keselowski stormed to the lead of the event at lap 132. He remained in the top spot for 22 laps before relinquishing the position due to a tight-handling condition that had developed in the Ruby Tuesday Dodge. After falling back to seventh place, Keselowski caught a break in the form of the sixth caution period of the afternoon. He came down pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments to the wedge and air pressure. He restarted the race in the 15th position at lap 173.
NHMS is known as a track where passing is tough, but Keselowski began making a furious charge to the front of the field with his fresh Goodyear radials. By lap 180 he had raced his way back to the sixth position and he began a hard-fought battle with the No. 16 car of Trevor Bayne for a spot in the top five. On lap 185, while on the inside of Bayne, Keselowski spun the No. 22 Dodge but did not make contact with anything. He had to bring his ride down pit road for fresh tires but no repairs. He was able to maneuver his way through the "green-white-checkered" flag finish at the end to secure an eighth-place spot in the running order.
Following Friday's result, Keselowski and the No. 22 team are ranked seventh in the Nationwide Series owner point standings.
"There was a lot of action today," said Keselowski. "This NASCAR racing, you have to love it. We needed just a little more speed on the long runs. We got up there and took the lead with 50 or 60 to go, I don't remember exactly how many laps were left, but the car fell off really bad and we got passed by a few cars and dropped back to seventh. The yellow (flag) came out and we thought it would be a good idea to come in for tires. I just made a mistake coming up through traffic and spun out (racing Trevor Bayne). That's the way it goes. The Ruby Tuesday Dodge was a top-five car, so we came up a little short."
The No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team will visit Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday, July 23 for the Federated Auto Parts 300. Live coverage will begin at 7:30 pm ET on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.
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