Keselowski Finishes 20th in Cup Series Finale
November 21, 2011HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 20, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 20th in the Ford 400 – the final race in the 2011 Chase for the Championship – at Homestead-Miami Speedway (HMS) on Sunday evening. Keselowski, who was on a different pit strategy from the race leaders, ran inside the top five late in the race before having to pit for fuel to make it to the end. Tony Stewart earned the win and captured the 2011 Cup Series title.
With Sunday’s the result, Keselowski finished fifth in the final 2011 Chase standings.
Keselowski began Sunday’s 267-lap event from the fifth position after posting a lap of 30.947 seconds, or 174.492 miles per hour, around the progressively-banked, 1.5-mile oval during the Saturday afternoon qualifying session. When the green flag flew to begin the race, Keselowski elected to start off on the bottom groove to allow more rubber to build on the high line, which was his preferred lane around the track. Rain showers at lap 13 brought out a quick caution flag, the first of several on the day for precipitation. Keselowski radioed that the Miller Lite Dodge was handling tight getting to the center of the HMS corners and he had to wait on getting back to the throttle because the car was too loose when he tried to apply the power. While running in the third position, crew chief Paul Wolfe brought his driver down pit road for four tires and fuel under the caution flag. Keselowski restarted the race in the 10th position as several drivers in front of him elected to take only two tires.
As the race resumed, Keselowski radioed that his car was not handling well back in the pack. His Miller Lite machine was still very loose as he tried to apply the throttle. A lap 34 caution period gave Wolfe the opportunity to make his own two-tire stop to give Keselowski track position and the “clean” air that goes with it. After restarting the race in the second position at lap 38, Keselowski quickly assumed the race lead on the very next lap. He led the next 10 laps before surrendering it to the No. 99 car driven by Carl Edwards. Keselowski was able to keep his car inside the top 10, despite the continued loose-handling condition.
Heavy rain showers reappeared over HMS at lap 108, which resulted in a red-flag period that lasted one hour and 15 minutes. When the red flag was lifted, Wolfe prescribed a track bar and wedge adjustment at lap 113, prior to the race restarting with Keselowski in the 13th position at lap 117. Two laps after taking the green, Keselowski narrowly escaped an incident that could have ended his race as he made contact with the rear bumper of the No. 42 car driven by Juan Pablo Montoya when it bounced off the outside wall and slowed directly in front of Keselowski. The damage was not severe and Keselowski was able to continue without visiting pit road for repairs. While the handling condition improved, Keselowski was not able to race his way back inside the top 10 prior to the halfway point.
Wolfe and Keselowski decided to gamble when, at lap 213, the third caution flag for rain flew over the field. The Miller Lite Dodge could not make it to the end of the race on fuel at this point, but Wolfe and Keselowski elected to remain on the racing surface to pick up valuable track position, hoping they would get see another caution flag before the end of the race. The No. 18 car of Kyle Busch was on this same strategy, however the rest of the field also could make it to the end and they pitted under the rain caution. Keselowski restarted the race in the second position at lap 231 and he quickly assumed the lead for one lap, but the caution flag he needed never materialized. With 12 laps remaining, Keselowski made his way down pit road for two tires and fuel. While on pit road he lost one lap to the race leaders and he crossed the finish line in the 20th position.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, finished 34thin Sunday’s Ford 400 season finale.
“We were better than a 20th-place car, but we took our chances and just didn’t catch the breaks,” said Keselowski. “I’m not frustrated with that. I think that’s the right strategy. I would just like to be a little bit faster. If we can get a little more speed in our cars, I feel like we can go out there and win a championship with this Miller Lite Dodge team (next season).”
After a strong and promising 2011 campaign, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will return to action at the Daytona 500 on February 26, 2012 at Daytona International Speedway.
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