Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished sixth in the Sylvania 300 – the second race in the 2012 Chase for the Championship – at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) on Sunday afternoon. With the result, Keselowski is now ranked second in the series standings as he’s produced an average finish of 3.5 over the first two races of NASCAR’s playoff format. Keselowski trails Jimmie Johnson by just one point in the Chase rankings.
Keselowski started the 300-lap race from the 15th position after his time of 28.506 seconds, or 133.614 miles per hour, around the one-mile oval during the Friday qualifying session. The race began with Keselowski holding his position despite a chassis condition that was loose entering the NHMS corners and tight through the center of the turn. As the run progressed toward the NASCAR-mandated competition caution at lap 40, the loose-handling condition began to worsen as Keselowski dropped to 18th in the running order, his lowest position of the race. The caution period provided crew chief Paul Wolfe an opportunity to make track bar and air pressure adjustments during a two-tire pit stop. Keselowski restarted the race from 15th place at lap 46.
As the race resumed it was evident that the adjustments were exactly what Keselowski needed to make his way through the field. At lap 73, he was turning laps as fast as the race leader, despite being caught in “dirty air.” One by one, the leaders began to pit at lap 109, and Keselowski claimed the race lead at lap 112 to collect a valuable bonus point. He brought his Miller Lite machine to the attention of his pit crew on the next lap for a four-tire stop that included wedge and air pressure adjustments. As the green-flag pit stops cycled through, Keselowski found himself running in the 15th position.
Following the pit stop, Keselowski radioed to Wolfe that it took a few laps for the handling of the Miller Lite Dodge came around to his liking. Once it did, however, he was able to turn laps faster than the race leader as he set his sights back on the top 10. At the halfway point of the race, Keselowski was running comfortably inside the top-10 cars. A lap 178 caution period allowed Wolfe and the team to make an additional wedge adjustment during a four-tire pit stop. Keselowski returned to the track in the 10th position.
As the race moved into the final 100-lap segment, Keselowski again displayed speed comparable to the race leaders. As other competitors began to experience falloff in time as the run progressed, Keselowski was able to turn top-three lap times. Once again he was able to grab the race lead as the field began to peel off for green-flag pit stops at lap 245. The Miller Lite Dodge would make its final stop of the day at lap 248 for two tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. After returning to the track in the fourth position, Keselowski was able to hang on to grab his third-consecutive top-10 finish at NHMS. The finish also marked Keselowski’s 11th top-10 finish in the last 12 NSCS races.
Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr., finished 21st in Sunday’s Sylvania 300.
“There was a lot of clawing today,” said Keselowski, winner of last week’s Chase opening race at Chicago. “We’d have liked to have been a little faster but we still had a decent day. Like my Miller Lite crew does every week, they just keep digging and made something happen. This is what a championship team does. They take weekends where they’re not the best and they make something out of it. We probably could have got a top five or so if that last yellow (flag) wouldn’t have come out, but we ended up sixth so we can’t complain.”
Penske Racing PR