Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished sixth in the Tums Fast Relief 500 – the seventh race in the 2012 Chase for the Championship – at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The race, which took place on the shortest track on the NASCAR circuit, was a battle from start to finish as Keselowski improved 26 positions over the course of the race.
With the result Keselowski now holds the second position in the Chase for the Championship standings, as he trails Jimmie Johnson by just two points with three races remaining in the season.
Keselowski began the 500-lap race from the 32nd position after posting a time of 19.722 seconds, or 96.013 miles per hour, around the one-half-mile oval during the Friday afternoon qualifying session. As the racing action picked up Keselowski bided his time and took care of his car as he methodically worked to gain track position. By the time the first caution flag of the day was displayed at lap 44 the No. 2 Miller Lite machine was shown running in the 27th position. At this point Keselowski radioed in that his Penske Racing Dodge was handling great on corner entry, but that it was struggling through the center of the turns and was lacking drive on corner exit. At lap 47, crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver into the pits where the Miller Lite pit crew changed the two left side tires, made a track bar adjustment and topped off the fuel. When the racing action resumed at lap 51 Keselowski was scored 17th in the running order, though he lost a few positions on the first few laps of the restart.
Over the next 46 laps Keselowski held station firmly in the top 20 while he dealt with a car that lacked drive off of the corner, though it continued to be strong on corner entry. A lap 127 caution flag set up a pit stop at lap 129, during which Wolfe called for a two tires and fuel. This call along with a well-executed stop resulted in Keselowski advancing to the 15th position as the green flag brought the field back up to speed at lap 136.
As the race progressed and the various race strategies began to play out the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger remained inside the top 20. This continued until just short of the half-way mark when, at lap 234, after staying out during a caution period, Keselowski broke into the top-10. From that point on Keselowski kept the Blue Deuce firmly in the top 10.
A late race caution at lap 474 prompted Keselowski to call an audible as he elected to stay on the racing surface while the majority of the lead cars pitted. This decision placed the 28-year-old driver in the lead for the first time of the day and gave him a valuable championship point. On the ensuing re-start he held off a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson, who had four fresh tires, for eight laps before giving up the top spot as he lost a few positions while he held on to his Miller Lite machine. Keselowski ran strong to the end as he crossed the finish line in the sixth position to secure second place in the Chase standings.
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr., finished 13th in Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500.
“We probably had a 10th- or 11th-place car today,” said Keselowski. “I think Denny (Hamlin) was really, really strong and he certainly deserved a solid finish or shot to win. And there were probably one or two other strong contenders behind us. I know we beat Jeff (Gordon) and I don’t think our Miller Lite Dodge was better than him or the 55 car (Brian Vickers). I’m proud we were able to find a way to get a decent finish racing those guys but certainly we’d have liked to get more spots. It’s always good when you out-finish what you have for a car, speed-wise. We’ve been able to crank out solid finishes. It’s a solid group. You believe in each other over time when you produce results and we’ve produced solid results over the last 16 or 17 races. It’s that stretch that gives us the confidence that we can go out there and repeat them and have a strong shot at this championship.”
Penske Racing PR