Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished seventh in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on Saturday night. With this serving as the final race of the regular season, Keselowski will enter the 2012 Chase for the Championship tied for second-place in the point standings.
Rain showers moved through the Richmond area in the early evening, delaying the start of the event by an hour and a half. Intermittent showers would plague the remainder of the event.
Keselowski began the scheduled 400-lap race from the 10th position after his time of 21.336 seconds, or 126.547 miles per hour, around the .75-mile, D-shaped oval during the Friday qualifying session. The race began with the high lane not getting quickly up to speed and, as a result, Keselowski and other competitors lost several spots on the start. He was able to settle in to the 18th position at lap 12 before he began to make up ground on the leaders. Keselowski radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe that his car was loose on entry and tight in the center of the RIR corners. A NASCAR-mandated competition caution at lap 45 gave Wolfe an opportunity to call his driver down pit road for a four-tire stop that included air pressure and track bar adjustments. Keselowski restarted the race from the 26th position at lap 51 following mishap on the stop.
The Miller Lite Dodge showed great long-run speed, which Keselowski used to his advantage as he maneuvered his way back through the field. Despite a chassis condition that remained the same as the previous run, the Penske Racing driver was able to race his way back to the 15th position before the first caution of the day for rain fell over the field at lap 138. Wolfe again prescribed track bar and air pressure adjustments when Keselowski made his way into his pit stall. However, at lap 150, the race was red-flagged due to weather for 51 minutes and 45 seconds as the track drying process took place.
As the racing resumed on the freshly-washed racetrack, it seemed as though Keselowski was driving a different Miller Lite Dodge. He restarted the race from the 16th position at lap 156, but he quickly made his way inside the top 10 by lap 183. He remained there as the race moved past the halfway point. However, he was still dealing with the loose- in and tight-center handling condition that plagued him since the start of the race. Wolfe and the team continued to make adjustments to the air pressure and track bar, along with wedge changes, to give their driver the feel he was looking for around the RIR oval.
Within the last 100 laps, Keselowski was able to make his way up as high as fifth in the running order. However, he was never able to find the feel he was looking for to challenge the leaders for the win. The seventh-place finish marked the team’s 15th top-10 finish of the season. It also continued their strong push at the end of the regular season as they prepare for the playoffs.
Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr., finished 11th in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400.
Following Saturday’s result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team move into the Chase for the Championship tied for second-place, based on their three wins this season.
“It's a great feeling to make the Chase with this Miller Lite Dodge,” said Keselowski. “Everyone at Penske Racing has done a great job. I'm just excited to get going next weekend at Chicago and proud of where we're at this season.”
Penske Racing PR