Top-Five Run Spoiled Late For Keselowski at LVMS

March 12, 2012

LAS VEGAS, Nev.  (March 11, 2012) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 32nd in the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) on Sunday afternoon. Keselowski and team placed themselves in position to challenge for the win in the latter stages of the race, but a fuel cell issue forced the car to the garage in the closing laps.
Keselowski began the 267-lap event from the 20th position based on his qualifying lap of 28.703 seconds, or 188.134 miles per hour, during Friday afternoon qualifying. After the race began, Keselowski quickly started to make his way toward the top 10 in the running order. He radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe that his car was handling similar to the Saturday practice sessions, which meant it was a little loose entering the corners and tight exiting the turns. As the run progressed, Keselowski became pleased with how his car turned in the center of the high-speed LVMS corners. By the time the first caution flag of the day flew at lap 45, Keselowski had entered the top 10 in the ninth position. Under this caution flag, Wolfe and the team elected to make minor air pressure adjustments to the Miller Lite Dodge’s four Goodyear radials. Unfortunately, Keselowski was caught speeding while exiting pit road and he was forced to restart the race at the rear of the field at lap 50.
Knowing he had a fast Miller Lite machine, Keselowski began to methodically work his way back through the field. He stated that he was very happy with the balance of his car and that if the team could find a way to get up front in “clean” air, he was confident in what the car could accomplish. A fuel-only pit stop at lap 74, under the yellow flag, improved the No. 2 car’s running position by 10 spots. Keselowski restarted the race from the 13th position at lap 78.
As sunlight began to warm parts of the racetrack, Keselowski started to move his racing line around in search of the line that helped his car’s performance. He continued to stick to the bottom of the track as the race moved past the halfway point. Wolfe kept his driver on the racing surface to lead one lap during green-flag pit stops at lap 177. Fast work by the No. 2 Miller Lite crew gained Keselowski three spots in the running order as he found himself in the 12th position once pit stops had cycled through.
After electing to keep Keselowski on the track once again, this time as the lead cars made their way down pit road during a lap 229 caution period, Wolfe was able to deliver the valuable track position that his driver had needed during the race. Keselowski restarted the race in the second position at lap 234 and he immediately attempted to take the lead from the No. 14 car driven by Tony Stewart. Keselowski was not able to complete the pass, but he began to fall into a smooth rhythm running in second place and he kept the leader in his sights.
At lap 251, following another race restart, Keselowski slowed considerably while coming to the green flag. It was quickly diagnosed as a fuel system problem as teammate AJ Allmendinger experienced the same issue earlier in the race. Keselowski pulled his Miller Lite Dodge into the garage at lap 252 as the team changed out the fuel cell. He returned to the track eight laps later following quick work by his crew, but the damage was done. Keselowski crossed the finish line in the 32nd position after having a car that was capable of a second-consecutive top-five finish.
Allmendinger was credited with a 37th-place finish in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400.
“We had a pretty decent Miller Lite Dodge Charger all day, probably not as good as (race-winner) Tony’s (Stewart) but really strong,” said Keselowski. “We were going to give him a run for his money and I was going to drive my butt off. It just wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t run out of gas. The fuel pump broke.”
Following Sunday’s event, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team are ranked 21st in the driver and owner point standings.
Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will move on to Bristol Motor Speedway next Sunday, March 18, for the Food City 500. Coverage will be seen live beginning at 12:30 pm EST on FOX. The race will also be heard on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.