HAMPTON, Ga. (September 4, 2010) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, finished 12th in the Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) on Saturday night. Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe gambled under a late-race caution to give the team a chance to pick up its fifth win of the season, but the race did not play out as needed for the team to visit Victory Lane.
Keselowski continues to lead the Nationwide Series driver point standings by 332 points over second-place contender Carl Edwards.
Keselowski began the race from the 15th position following his qualifying lap of 31.222 seconds, or 177.567 mph, during the afternoon time trials. As the early portions of the race unfolded, Keselowski radioed to Wolfe that he needed to turn better in the center of the corners without being too loose on exit. Despite the chassis condition, Keselowski was able to race his way inside the top 10 by lap 20. A caution on lap 42 gave Wolfe his first opportunity to adjust the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge to the liking of his driver. While he considered several changes to the chassis, the crew chief elected to only place four new Goodyear tires on the Dodge as the “sticker” tires would sufficiently give Keselowski the feel he needed.
As Keselowski restarted the race in the 12th position on lap 47, it was evident that Wolfe had made the correct call. Keselowski quickly drove inside the top five on lap 65. He radioed to Wolfe that the new tires had really brought the car to life. He was able to keep the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Charger inside the top five until a green-flag pit stop on lap 108. Once again, Wolfe elected to make no chassis adjustments. As the pit stops cycled through on lap 123, Keselowski found himself running in the fourth position.
As the race moved into the second half, Keselowski began to develop a loose condition on his racecar. When the third caution flag of the race flew on lap 147, Wolfe called his driver down pit road for two rounds of wedge to help the condition. One lap following the restart – on lap 154 – the No. 38 of Kasey Kahne made contact with Keselowski, nearly ending his day. He was able to continue as there was no damage to the left rear quarter-panel of his machine.
When the fourth caution flag flew on lap 168, Keselowski and Wolfe decided to stay on track in hopes of catching one more caution before the end of the race. AMS is one of the most-abrasive surfaces on the circuit and an opportunity to put tires on the No. 22 Dodge with only a few laps remaining could have given the team a shot to win the race. However, as most of the other lead lap cars elected to visit pit road, Keselowski could not hold them off on the restart and the race ended without another incident with Keselowski crossing the finish line in 12th place.
With the finish, Keselowski extends his NASCAR record with his 92nd consecutive Nationwide Series race without a DNF (Did Not Finish).
Penske Racing teammate Justin Allgaier finished 13th.
“We probably had a fourth or fifth-place car,” said Keselowski. “We rolled the dice to win because we want to win. We know that we have a real good shot at winning the driver’s title and it’s looking really good. We’re just going for wins and doing all that we can to do that. We just didn’t catch the breaks that we needed to get a solid finish or win the race. We put ourselves in position and sometimes that’s the way it goes.”
The No.22 Discount Tire Dodge Charger team will move to Richmond International Raceway next weekend for the Richmond 250. The race can be seen live on Friday, September 10, on ESPN2 beginning at 7 p.m. EDT. The event can also be heard live on MRN Radio, as well as Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 128.
Brad Keselowski Great Clips 300 Race Statistics
Laps Led: 4
Points Position: 1