Pit Road Incident Places Keselowski 24th in Texas
November 7, 2011FORT WORTH, Tex. (November 6, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 24th in the AAA Texas 500 – the eighth race in the 2011 Chase for the Championship – at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) on Sunday afternoon. An ill-handling racecar, combined with a late-race incident on a congested pit road, forced Keselowski into his worst finish of the Chase.
With the result, Keselowski fell to the fifth position in the Chase standings, and he is now 49 points behind series leader Carl Edwards.
Keselowski began Sunday’s 334-lap event from the eighth position after posting a lap of 27.976 seconds, or 193.023 miles per hour, around the 1.5-mile oval during the Friday afternoon qualifying session. When the race began, Keselowski radioed that the car was handling tight getting into Turn 1 and loose while exiting both ends of the racetrack. As a result, he fell back eight spots in the running order. However, by lap 15, Keselowski had moved to the high line around TMS, which paid off as he turned laps faster than the race leader. He was able to race his way back inside the top 10 before visiting pit road for the first time under the green flag at lap 44. Crew chief Paul Wolfe called for track bar and air pressure adjustments to help the handling condition on the Miller Lite machine and, as the pit stops cycled through, Keselowski found himself running in the 10th position.
Despite a chassis that had moved considerably to the loose side, Keselowski was still able to turn some of the fastest laps on the track following the first round of pit stops. Keselowski, unfortunately, could no longer use the high line that had been successful for him earlier due to the loose-handling condition. Following another round of track bar and air pressure adjustments at lap 87, Keselowski began to look like he could contend for the win.
Running inside the top 10, he continued to work the bottom of the racing surface to pick up valuable time on the race leader. When the first caution of the day flew at lap 112, Keselowski and Wolfe agreed there were no adjustments needed during the subsequent pit stop. Great pit work by the Miller Lite Dodge pit crew gained Keselowski three positions on pit road as he restarted the race from the sixth position at lap 117.
Within one lap, Keselowski entered the top five for the first time during the event. He continued to pick up positions throughout the entire run, eventually leading his only laps of the day at lap 161, which earned him one bonus point, before he made his way down pit road for service.
After he returned to the racetrack in the sixth position, Keselowski radioed that the car’s chassis reverted back to a loose-handling condition, especially when the driver tried to commit to the throttle. The handling on the No. 2 Dodge would remain in this condition until Keselowski visited pit road at lap 263 for wedge and air pressure adjustments. Having to go around the No. 11 car of Denny Hamlin to get into his pit stall, Keselowski entered his stall a bit awkwardly as the No. 39 car driven by Ryan Newman entered the pits in front of him. This blocked Keselowski in his stall and he was forced to back up to go around Newman to exit the stall. Unfortunately, Keselowski made contact with the left front fender of Hamlin in the exchange. The damage to the right rear quarter panel of the Miller Lite Dodge was severe enough that Keselowski was forced to visit pit road once more for repairs before the race resumed at lap 275.
Over the remaining laps Keselowski – now off pit strategy with the race leaders – was able to race his way into the fifth position at lap 323 as he hoped a late-race caution that would bring everyone back down pit road for a run to the finish. However, the caution flag never flew and Keselowski had to visit pit road for fuel under the green flag at lap 327. Keselowski would return to the track in the 26th position, one lap down to the leaders. He was able to pick up two spots before crossing the finish line in the 24th position.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, finished 30th in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
Following the result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team fell one position to fifth place in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings.
“Just a tough night for the Miller Lite Dodge team,” said Keselowski. “We couldn’t get the speed out of our car that we needed and fought all day for track position. We lost the handling on the car right in the middle part of the race and adjustments were made to make it better and it just made it worse. It was unfortunate."
The eighth race for Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite team in the 2011 Chase for the Championship will be the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, November 13. Live coverage will begin at 3:00 pm ET on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 90.
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