Keselowski Finishes 18th at the "New" P.I.R.
November 14, 2011AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 13, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 18th in the Kobalt Tools 500 – the ninth race in the 2011 Chase for the Championship – at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on Sunday afternoon. Keselowski looked to be a contender for the win early in the event, before handling issues over the final half of the race kept him from a top finish.
With the result, Keselowski moved up one position to fourth in the Chase standings, and he is now 65 points behind series leader Carl Edwards.
Keselowski began Sunday’s 312-lap event from the 12thposition after posting a lap of 26.585 seconds, or 135.415 miles per hour, around the newly-configured, one-mile oval during the Saturday morning qualifying session. As he didin the NASCAR Nationwide Series race the day before at PIR, Keselowski lost several spots at the start of the race by having to line up in the outside row as the race began, with the bottom lane being the preferred line around the new PIR surface. When he was finally able to get to the bottom of the racetrack, Keselowski found himself running in the 15th position. Keselowski worked his way into the 13thspotbefore the NASCAR-mandated competition caution at lap 40. Crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver down pit road for a two-tire stop, which included a track bar adjustment to alleviate a tight-handling condition, and Keselowski returned to the track in 10th place.
It became clear early in the run that the adjustments had the desired effect on the handling of the Miller Lite machine as Keselowski quickly began to turn some of the fastest laps on the track. He demonstrated consistent, long-run speed that proved to be key in working his way back to the front of the field. As the run progressed, Keselowski radioed that his car was beginning to handle tighter in the center of the PIR corners. He was able to work his way into the eighth position, however, before a caution flag at lap 93 gave him another opportunity to visit pit road. Following a pit stop that included four Goodyear radials, fuel and an air pressure adjustment, Keselowski restarted the race in the fifth position at lap 98, thanks to great pit work by the Miller Lite crew.
Keselowski was able to keep his car inside the top five as the race moved past the halfway point. He continued to show consistent speed among the race leaders. Prior to a caution flag at lap 159, Keselowski was shown to be the fastest car running inside the top five. Following another fast pit stop, the race resumed with Keselowski running in the second position at lap 164.
With less than 100 laps remaining, Keselowski found himself running in sixth place. He brought his car down pit road, under the yellow flag, at lap 221 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Following an extended pit stop, Keselowski returned to the track in the 15th position. Running in the middle of the pack drastically changed the handling of the Miller Lite Dodge and Keselowski could not advance his position.
While the rest of the field began to make green-flag pit stops late in the event, Keselowski was able to assume the lead at lap 296. He stayed at the front of the field for four laps before making his final pit stop of the day at lap 299. Keselowski was not able to catch back up with the race leaders and he crossed the finish line in the 18th position, one lap down to race winner Kasey Kahne.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, finished 22ndin Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500.
Following the result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team improved one position to fourth place in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings.
“We had a really good Miller Lite Dodge Charger at the first(part) of the race and felt like we had a car to win it,” said Keselowski. “As the race progressed, we just lost the handle on it. Lost some spots on pit road and I just didn’t execute at the end of the race. The new track was really, really good actually. I don’t see how anyone can complain about the track. It was a great race. It was a lot of fun, just disappointed we didn’t close it out.”
The 10th and final race for Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite team in the 2011 Chase for the Championship will be the Ford 400at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 20. Live coverage will begin at 3:00 pm ET on ESPN. The race be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 90.
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