Penske Racing’s No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team directed by crew chief Paul Wolfe and driver Brad Keselowski played the skillful fuel-saving game and provided Dodge its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the 2011 season, and helped the Penske team capture three contingency awards Sunday at the Inaugural STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Wolfe captured the Moog Chassis Parts Problem Solver of the Race Award, which goes to the crew chief that improves the most from the first half to the second half of the race utilizing the 40 best lap times.
While Keselowski managed to save enough fuel to make it to the finish line by more than two seconds over runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr., it was teammate Kurt Busch in the No. 22 AAA Dodge that started the weekend on the Coors Light Pole and led 152 laps on the day. Penske Engines also captured the MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Race Award for powering the efforts of Busch’s No. 22 Dodge.
The awards are part of the NASCAR Prize Money and Decal Program, also referred to as the contingency program, which provides teams prize money and weekly awards based on performance in several categories.
“It was a team victory today,” said Keselowski. “We had Kurt Busch, my teammate, who led the majority of the race from what I could see, and had good speed and the 2 car had great speed as well. We just kind of caught a bad break on qualifying when we went out. But it's a team effort. Kurt had him covered on speed. We had him covered on strategy and together one of us was going to win. And I'm proud in general that it was a Penske car that won.”
Keselowski took the lead with just nine laps to go which makes this the sixth time in 11 years that the winner of the race at Kansas didn’t lead until the second half of the race.
“Well, it's great to see Dodge back in the [Victory Lane],” said team owner Roger Penske. “[Keselowski and Wolfe] are talking all the time. They’re working, there's nobody more committed. The good news is to hear Kurt say … it was great for the team. We finally think we have a combination that we can run on the mile and a halfs (Kansas is a 1.5-mile track), because we struggle on the mile and a halfs.”
The win puts Keselowski in 21st place in the standings as Roush Fenway’s Carl Edwards retains his lead, by 40 points over Jimmie Johnson heading into Sunday’s 5-Hour ENERGY 500 at Pocono Raceway (1 p.m. ET, TNT).
Official winners of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Prize Money & Decal Program special awards include:
· AMERICAN ETHANOL GREEN FLAG RESTART: Tony Stewart
· COORS LIGHT POLE AWARD:Kurt Busch (174.752 mph. 30.901 secs.)
· DIRECTV CREW CHIEF OF THE RACE AWARD: Bob Osborne (crew chief for Carl Edwards)
· GOODYEAR GATORBACK BELTS FASTEST LAP AWARD: Kyle Busch (167.587 mph, Lap 2)
· MAHLE CLEVITE ENGINE BUILDER OF THE RACE AWARD: Penske Engines, No. 22
· MOBIL 1 OIL DRIVER OF THE RACE AWARD: Tony Stewart
· MOOG CHASSIS PARTS PROBLEM SOLVER OF THE RACE AWARD: Paul Wolfe (crew chief for Brad Keselowski, -0.025 secs.)
· O’REILLY AUTO PARTS POSITION IMPROVEMENT AWARD: Matt Kenseth (15 places)
· SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Andy Lally