August 12, 2018
Consumers Energy 400
Michigan International Speedway
2 mile D-Shaped Oval, asphalt
400 Miles, 200 Laps
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams headed back to Michigan International Speedway for the second and final race at the track this season. Brad Keselowski has 9 summer starts at his home track in the Cup series, with a top finish of P2 in 2012, and an overall average finish of 12.4. Keselowski was more than ready to notch the first win of the season, but as with every trip to Michigan, he wanted badly to score a first win at his home track.
Prior to the race weekend, Ford drivers from across the Cup series gathered in Dearborn, Michigan to unveil the 2019 Ford Mustang that will be driven in the top series of NASCAR next year. Keselowski shared some of his thoughts with The Detroit News, not only on the newest car in the series, but also some general thoughts on the future of the sport.
Practice & Qualifying Sessions:
Opening practice on Friday had most teams focused on qualifying trim for the session that would come later in the day, and Keselowski finished the session P15, with a top speed of 200.529mph. As qualifying rolled around, Keselowski easily advanced to the 2nd round in P8. However, he would not have the needed speed in round 2, and after taking two laps, he would be scored to start the race in P18 with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch making up the front row.
The second practice session, held early Saturday morning, was delayed as thick fog covered the track. The fog finally lifted with about 15 minutes left in the session. His team wrapped up the session with a lap around the track then a hard entry onto pit road to practice pit road speeds. Keselowski finished the session P3, with a top speed of 199.358mph.
Final practice kicked off late Saturday morning with conditions as close to race time as possible. Keselowski took a 10-lap run and was 13th on the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average chart, and finished the session P14 overall, with a top speed of 196.442mph.
NBCSports Reporter Marty Snider caught up with Keselowski during driver introductions on Sunday afternoon to talk about racing at his home track in front of friends and family. Keselowski said, “I want to make a good show in front of em. We’re going to push as hard as we can.”
Prior to the drop of the green flag, NASCAR announced that because of heavy rain overnight, there would be a competition caution at lap 25.
As drivers took their cars out for opening pace laps, Penske teammate Joey Logano was seen taking his No. 22 down pit road. Fans quickly learned that there was miscommunication between his crew chief and an engineer who placed the wrong shock in the left front of Logano’s car and realized the error after clearing tech. This mistake allowed Keselowski to move up to start the race in P17.
As the green flag waved, drivers immediately went 3-wide for position as Hamlin ran ahead with the lead. Throughout the opening 9 laps, Keselowski fluctuated between P15 and P17.
Lap 9 brought the first caution of the day as Erik Jones went spinning. Keselowski would restart P16, letting his team know he was “loose in, tight in the middle of the corners.”
While there was a battle for the lead on the restart (lap 14) between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, Keselowski fell to P18.
On lap 16, Keselowski was scored in P14 when the caution flew again as Martin Truex, Jr. and William Byron made contact in turn 2.
Keselowski would restart P13 on lap 20 and work his way up to P11 before the yellow flew again for the competition caution. He took to his pit stall for 2 tires and was 10th off pit road, allowing him to restart P9.
Throughout the next three laps, there were numerous battles throughout the field for position, and leading up to the end of the stage, those coveted stage points. Keselowski hovered around P8 to P10.
On lap 38, Kyle Larson and Elliott both came to pit road reporting vibrations and potential loose wheels.
Ten laps later, Keselowski was running P10 and told his team his car was “a little loose in and off” and he had “major tire chatter.”
Throughout the closing laps of stage 1, Harvick had a 3 second lead, and top speeds over 219 mph were being reported on the broadcast.
With 7 laps to go in the opening stage, Keselowski passed Alex Bowman to claim P9, which is where he would end the stage, earning 2 points.
During the end of stage caution, Keselowski took to his pit stall for 4 tires and a chassis adjustment. He was 9th off pit road and would restart P9 on lap 66.
On the restart, drivers again took their cars 3-wide, while Jimmie Johnson ran ahead with the lead. Behind him, the No. 18 of Busch and Hamlin were battling each other, and eventually Johnson, for the lead.
With this chaos ahead of him, Keselowski gained a couple of positions to claim P7. He gained yet another position when Ryan Newman brushed the wall and went spinning, bringing out the caution.
Under this caution, there was a mixed bag of strategy being played throughout pit road. Keselowski thought he had a loose tire and was close to pitting under green when the caution came out. Newman’s incident allowed him to stop under yellow without fear of losing the many positions he would have under green.
His team gave him 4 fresh tires and a chassis adjustment, and he restarted P21 on lap 79.
Johnson again had the lead and within 3 laps, Keselowski gained 3 positions to claim P18.
The next caution came out on lap 84 when Jones made slight contact with Ryan Blaney and went spinning.
Keselowski was scored in P16 on the restart. Truex sped ahead with the lead and had Harvick and Kyle Busch on his tail, while Keselowski worked his way up to P12 by lap 88.
The middle of stage 2 was relatively calm as Keselowski slowly ticked off cars, claiming P11 on lap 91 and P10 a lap later, while fans watched “The Big 3” of Harvick, Truex, and Kyle Busch dominate the stage.
Keselowski maintained P10 until there were only 3 laps left in the stage. As Truex ran out of gas and had to head to his pit stall after pit road closed, Keselowski claimed P9 and earned 2 more stage points.
Under the end of stage caution, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and would restart in P10 on lap 127.
Once again, there was a 3-wide restart, and this time, Harvick ran off with the lead. Keselowski would spend the first laps of the stage working his way up to P6 by lap 133.
At this time, the caution flew for a confusing incident as Ty Dillon ran over something on the back straight away, slammed into the wall in turn 3, and as he drove his No. 13 to pit road, his car caught on fire.
Social media lit up with speculation on what it could have been - it tore the front splitter of his car, but disintegrated after impact. Ultimately, it was confirmed Monday that it was a battery from the No. 66 of Timmy Hill’s car.
During this caution, Keselowski stayed out to maintain his track position of P6, and within a few laps of the restart, he moved up to P5.
On lap 145, Keselowski claimed P3 behind Harvick and Austin Dillon, and the mellowness resumed as cars went single file awaiting green flag pit stops.
On lap 157, Keselowski radioed in to tell his team he was “too tight in the center of the corners, loose off both turns 2 and 4.” Harvick continued his dominance of not only this race, but this season, with a lead that was over 3 seconds ahead of P2.
While Bowman took an early trip to his pit stall on lap 161, the chaos of green flag stops started nearly 10 laps later, with 30 laps to go. Teams employed a variety of strategies between 2 and 4 tire stops, and a full tank of gas versus a splash of gas.
Keselowski stopped at this point for 4 tires and fuel, saying, “Don’t free me up too much.” He sat P18 awaiting the leaders decisions to pit.
With 10 laps remaining, Harvick would be scored the race leader but started calling over his radio stating his engine was hot and he could not cool it down.
Keselowski worked his way up to P3 after pit stops cycled around. Suddenly, the No. 3 of Dillon, who was sitting in P2, had a flat tire with 2 laps to go, and this allowed Keselowski to claim P2. Unfortunately for fans of the Blue Deuce, Harvick had too much of a lead for Keselowski to catch up.
A win at his home track would again escape Keselowski’s grasp, but he would earn 39 points for the final stage, totaling 43 points for the day.
Post race, Keselowski said, “We kind of clawed all day and had some good restarts with the Discount Tire Ford and got all we could get out of it but just ended up one spot short and that is so frustrating.”
On Monday, Keselowski shared via social media, “It’s nice to just be able to have a mostly clean race and to be able to kind of get the finish we deserve. That’s good for everybody's morale at Team Penske and on the Discount Tire team. Of course we want to break through and win. We know it's possible, and it's up to us to make it happen.”
PLAYOFF STANDINGS: Keselowski sits in 10th place, the 2nd driver without a win. He is 229 points above the cutoff line.
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August 5, 2018
Watkins Glen International
2.5 miles, 7 turns, Road Course, Asphalt and Concrete
225 miles/90 laps
After tire failure caused Brad Keselowski’s day to end early at Pocono Raceway last weekend, the No. 2 Team Penske crew headed to Watkins Glen International for a weekend of turning left and right.
In his 8 starts at Watkins Glen, Keselowski has 3 second-place finishes, with an average finish of 10.8. This weekend, Keselowski was sporting a new sponsor on his Ford Fusion in Wabash National for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Keselowski was pulling double duty at The Glen, also piloting the No. 12 for the Xfinity Series. He qualified to start the Zippo 200 in P2, next to Penske teammate Joey Logano. Keselowski had a calm start to the race, and claimed the lead for the start of stage 3, leading the first half of the final stage. For the last bit of the stage, Logano had the lead and Keselowski was on his bumper fighting for it. With 3 to go, Keselowski got loose and spun out, bringing home a P10 finish.
MENCS Practice & Qualifying Sessions:
Saturday brought two practice sessions followed by qualifying later in the day. During the opening 90-minute practice-session, Keselowski took his car out for 18 laps, with a top speed of 122.589mph, and finished P21.
A slick track came with final practice and Keselowski wrapped up the session in P26 with a top speed of 122.098mph. Qualifying came after the Xfinity race. After taking two laps, Keselowski qualified to start Sunday’s race in P18.
After qualifying, cars were placed under lock and key until pre-race inspection Sunday morning. Kurt Busch and Paul Menard failed inspection and were required to start from the rear, allowing Keselowski to gain a spot and start P17, while Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch would lead the field to green.
As the green flag dropped, there was an immediate 3-way battle between Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Chase Elliott which persisted over the opening 3 laps. Keselowski fell to P18, but gained his starting position back as Logano lost control of his car and went spinning.
The first caution came out on lap 4 when Aric Almirola went spinning in turn 7. Lap 6 brought the restart and Keselowski was in P14. Keselowski maintained P14 over the next 10 laps and with 3 laps to go, green flag pit stops started.
To finish the stage, Keselowski finished P5, earning 6 stage points. Under the caution, Keselowski came in for 4 tires and fuel.
Keselowski would be 9th off pit road, losing 4 positions, causing him to restart P20. In the opening lap, he gained 2 positions while Kyle Busch and Elliott again battled for the lead. With 13 laps to go, Keselowski moved up a spot to snag P17, and three laps later, he gained another spot, but lost it right before the end of the stage.
Only a handful of cars took to their pit stalls before the stage ended. Keselowski would finish the stage P15. During the end of stage caution, Keselowski took to pit road for 4 tires.
Keselowski would start the final stage in P23, and would make up one more position in the opening laps. By lap 46, Keselowski worked his way up to P20, and then claimed P17 on lap 50.
With 39 laps to go, he worked his way up to P16, but two laps later, the caution came out when Matt DiBenedetto blew his engine near the inner loop.
Under the caution, Keselowski took to his pit stall for fuel only to attempt to gain numerous positions, however, chaos in Hamlin’s pit box caused him to be delayed leaving his pit box and he would restart P9 with 32 to go.
On the restart lap, Keselowski gained a position while Elliott ran ahead with the lead, but 5 laps later, Keselowski fell back to P9.
With 23 to go, Kyle Busch passed him bumping him back to P10 as the No. 18 of Busch was working his way back to the front after pit stop issues.
With 20 laps to go, Keselowski lost another spot as Kevin Harvick took P10 from him, and then continued to lose positions over the next handful of laps, falling to P19.
As Elliott claimed his first Cup series win, Keselowski finished P17.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski currently sits in 10th place, 209 points above the cut line, as the second driver without a win.
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July 22nd, 2018
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
1.058 Mile Oval, Asphalt and Granite
301 Laps/318 Miles
Brad Keselowski has had a few success stories at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, including 3 pole starts and a win in 2014. His average finish in 9 summer starts is 11.4. It was worth noting that this would be the first year in recent seasons with only one race at New Hampshire.
While Keselowski had AutoTrader.com as the primary sponsor on his No. 2 Ford Fusion this weekend, he was pulling double duty, piloting the No. 22 Menard’s Ford Mustang in the Xfinity series as well.
As the green flag dropped, Keselowski started his mission to get back to the front of the field. It took him only 15 laps to get into the top 10, and by lap 23, he was P8. To finish stage 1, Keselowski came in P5. He won the race off pit road during the end of stage caution to restart stage 2 in P1. During the opening laps of stage 2, Keselowski called in to tell his team he was unable to hear his spotter and crew chief on the radio, but thankfully this issue only lasted a few laps. It was later discovered that when his crew handed him a water bottle, they accidentally hit the volume knob, turning it down.
Ryan Preece gave Keselowski a run for his money on a restart after a caution for debris, but Keselowski ultimately won the battle maintaining his lead. After two more restarts and battles with Preece, Keselowski went on to win stage 2. On the stage 3 restart, Keselowski was in P12, but over the next few laps, he went 3-wide, multiple times, to gain an advantage in position. By lap 119, Keselowski had worked his way to P3, and seven laps later, Keselowski claimed P2, behind stage 1 winner, Christopher Bell. Lap 132 brought a mirrorful of Keselowski’s car to the back of Bell, and for 3 laps, the two drivers battled hard for P1, and lap 146 brought Keselowski to the lead.
With 41 laps to go, green flag pit stops began with Brandon Jones. Keselowski stayed out for 5 more laps and then stopped for 2 tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment. Before stops could cycle around, the caution came out when Jeremy Clements missed his mark and hit the barrels marking the end of pit road, ultimately bringing out the red flag to allow officials the chance to clean up pit road. Keselowski was scored in P1 and would restart next to Daniel Hemric, both on two fresh tires, with a slew of cars with 4 fresh tires behind them with 27 laps to go. Keselowski ran off with the lead while drivers behind him took their cars 3-wide. Five laps later, the caution came out when Garrett Smithley and Chad Finchum made contact. Keselowski would restart next to Bell with 18 laps to go. Bell took the lead and Keselowski fell to P3. Keselowski battled with Bell and John Hunter Nemechek for position on the restart lap, with Preece joining in the action, but Keselowski ultimately claimed P2 as the laps ticked by. With 10 to go, lapped traffic made the battle for the lead even more interesting. Coming out of turn 4 with 2 to go, Keselowski got loose and this allowed Bell to get a run and take the checkered flag with Keselowski bringing home a P2 finish.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series:
Practice & Qualifying -
NASCAR had announced that the opening practice session on Friday afternoon would be shortened by thirty minutes, therefore many teams focused on mock qualifying runs in anticipation of qualifying later in the day.
About 15 minutes into practice, Keselowski took to the track for a few laps to see how his car was handling. His radio chatter was pretty quiet throughout the session, and with about 3 minutes remaining, Keselowski took to the track for one last run, which ended up being his fastest lap of practice. He finished the opening session P11.
Qualifying came Friday afternoon under cloudless, sunny skies, and drivers and fans alike were hoping the beautiful weather would remain. Round 1 was a game of chicken as drivers were waiting until the last possible moment to hit the track. With only 3 minutes remaining, only half the field had taken their laps. Keselowski easily advanced to round 2, sitting in P13. In round 2, Keselowski was one of the first drivers to take to the track but got bumped from the top 12, so with 2 minutes left, he took another lap. His effort was rewarded with P11 and advancement to round 3. Once all drivers took their laps, Keselowski qualified P6. Kurt Busch got the pole and he would lead the field to green next to Martin Truex, Jr.
The Saturday morning practice session came under very different conditions than teams faced on Friday - much cooler and overcast. While Keselowski was right outside the top 10 in the middle of practice, he was 7th in the best average speeds for this session, with 9 laps under his belt. Penske Teammates, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano, and Penske alliance, Paul Menard, were all in the top 10 in best average speeds. Keselowski wrapped up the second practice in P12.
Happy Hour practice came early Saturday afternoon. While it was closer to race time, it was far from the forecasted race conditions. NASCAR announced during the morning practice that the start time on Sunday would be moved up an hour because of anticipated rain. Keselowski finished the session P10, and 5th on the best 10 consecutive lap averages list.
Sunday’s events were delayed until late afternoon due to heavy rains moving through the area. When the green flag dropped, drivers were very uncertain as to what to expect in terms of track conditions.
As the green flag dropped and Kurt Busch took off with the lead, Keselowski lost a position to be scored in P7. By lap 13, Keselowski had fallen to P10. Two laps later, the first caution of the day came out when Landon Cassill hit the wall in turn 3. He would restart in P10, and immediately was able to gain two positions. However as soon as the green flag came out, the caution was back out for AJ Allmendinger as he had a flat left rear and slammed the wall in turns 1 and 2. Keselowski was scored in P6. On the restart, Keselowski jumped ahead to snag P5. On lap 30, he made ground and took P4 from Truex. Keselowski told his team he was “loose off” as he tried to hold off Truex right before the competition caution on lap 36.
Keselowski came to pit road for two tires and would restart in P9. On the restart Keselowski went 3-wide in an attempt to gain position but lost position to fall to P14. By lap 44, Keselowski gained 3 positions, and over the next handful of laps, Keselowski maintained P11. Lap 53 brought a caution for debris while Keselowski was in P12. Keselowski restarted P12 with 23 laps to go in stage 1. Keselowski was leading a pack of cars heading to reach the back of the top 10. With 10 to go in stage 1, Keselowski broke into the top 10. Four laps later, teammate Logano, took p10 from him. Keselowski finished stage 1 in P12.
Keselowski stopped for four tires, wedge and air pressure adjustments during the end of stage caution and would restart P11, but lost a position on the restart. Over the next few laps, he gained that position back, and maintained P11 throughout the first half of stage 2. Lap 111 brought Keselowski to P10, passing Menard. Lap 119 put Keselowski back in P11 as teammate Blaney passed him for P10. To end stage 2, Keselowski came in P11.
During the end of stage caution, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel. He would restart stage 3 in P9. On the restart, he fell to P10, but then gained two positions within a few laps. Keselowski maintained P8 throughout the opening laps of the final stage. As NBC Broadcasters went through the field, Parker Kligerman said the No. 2 team surprised them because, “We usually see different strategy, and they just haven’t done that yet. And Keselowski has been complaining about the front end not working properly.” Shortly after this, Keselowski fell to P9.
On lap 209, Keselowski started falling back drastically, and called over the radio saying that his brakes were failing. His crew chief, Paul Wolfe, told him to use the brakes as little as possible as he fell to P24 and ultimately, a lap down. Green flag pit stops started with 79 laps to go. With 52 laps to go, Keselowski took to pit road. He took 4 tires and fuel, and his team took the opportunity to look at his brake situation, putting him down multiple laps. His team was able to repair “half a pedal,” and as soon as Keselowski was done pitting, Clint Bowyer got into the wall and brought out the caution. This caution allowed Keselowski to not get any further than 8 laps down, in P33.
Keselowski managed to stay only 8 laps down throughout the end of the race, as rain started to fall with 17 laps to go. As Kevin Harvick moved Kyle Busch out of the way for the win, Keselowski came home P32.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski fell to 9th place in the Playoff Standings as the second drivers without a win and 210 points above the cutoff line.
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Saturday, July 14, 2018
1.5 mile tri-oval, Asphalt
400 miles/267 laps
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams put the “wreck fest” of Daytona in their rear view mirror and shifted gears to head to Kentucky Speedway. Kentucky has been kind to Brad Keselowski throughout his career. In his 7 starts, he has an average finish of 12.6, and three wins, including one from the pole. It is also worth noting, Keselowski's Kentucky wins have come on even numbered years in 2012, 2014, and 2016. As such, fans of the Blue Deuce held their breath in anticipation of what 2018 had in store.
Opening practice had Keselowski in P6 after laying down 19 laps, and he was 4th in the best average speeds, clocking in at 181.400mph. Kicking off final practice later Friday afternoon, Keselowski immediately jumped to the top of the leaderboard. After the 50 minute session, he was P11 with a top speed of 184.944mph and he was 5th in the best average speeds, at 180.341mph.
Qualifying was scheduled for Friday afternoon and Keselowski finished round 1 in P4. Round two brought Keselowski to the top again, finishing in P4 to advance to round 3. Keselowski was the first driver out in round 3, but immediately called over the radio to say, “We’re going to need to do that again, so let’s cool it down.” He made it out to complete a second lap, but ultimately qualified P4. Martin Truex, Jr. snagged the pole and would start next to last week's winner, Erik Jones.
The green flag dropped and Keselowski immediately gained a position to P3. On lap 4, he gained another position to P2 as the No. 20 of Jones got out of the groove and lost speed and multiple positions. He maintained P2 over the next dozen laps as Truex ran ahead with the lead, and drivers behind him lined up single file.
On lap 22, Truex and Keselowski hit lapped traffic, which fluctuated the gap between P1 and P2 to .50 and .90 seconds.
Green flag stops started at lap 36, and 3 laps later, Truex took to the pits which allowed Keselowski to take the lead. One lap later, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel and minor adjustments. Unfortunately, Keselowski was issued a penalty for exiting pit road too quickly. After pit stops cycled around, he was scored a lap down in P31.
As the stage 1 laps ticked by, Keselowski slowly worked his way through the pack to earn back the spots he lost having to take his drive-through penalty. He came on the radio to take the blame noting he was looking at the wrong spot on the drive off pit road. Crew chief Paul Wolfe reminded him, “Yellow line to yellow line.”
With 18 to go, Keselowski had gained 10 positions back to be scored in P21, still a lap down. Two laps later, the leaders took to their pits, allowing Keselowski to gain a few positions to P18 and get back on the lead lap.
At the end of the stage, Keselowski was scored in P18.
Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, and told his team he felt the groove was “a little wider than last year” which meant there was the potential for more passing, which is what fans were treated to in the Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity races.
Within 3 laps of stage 2, Keselowski had gained two positions to P16.
Lap 102 brought Keselowski to P14. Seven laps later, the first caution for incident came out as Alex Bowman slammed the wall in turn 4 when his right front tire went down. Keselowski was scored in P13.
Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, and would restart in P15 on lap 115.
Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney battled Kyle Busch for P2 while Keselowski worked his way up to P14 by lap 125.
As NBC broadcasters touched on the top drivers, Marty Snider noted that Keselowski, who had worked his way to P14 after falling to P32, had one of the top 5 lap times over the previous few laps.
With 10 to go, Keselowski had lost a position to be scored in P15, and that is where Keselowski finished the stage.
Fans of the No. 2 were waiting to see if Wolfe would play a strategy card during this race, and he chose the end of stage 2 caution as his time to do that. He opted for 2 tires and fuel to win the race off pit road and gain 14 spots. Keselowski would start stage 3 in P1.
Keselowski restarted next to Truex, but got a run and took the lead on the high line to run ahead with the lead, while drivers behind him went 3-wide, battling for position.
Keselowski maintained his lead through lap 179 with a nearly 1 second lead over Larson in P2, but around this time, Keselowski started to hit lapped traffic.
Ten laps later, Truex was cutting into Keselowski’s lead as he was only .5 second behind P1.
With 70 to go, Truex was all over the back bumper of Keselowski and 3 laps later, Truex reclaimed the lead after Keselowski got loose.
Lap 207 brought a caution as JJ Yeley hit the wall in turn 4. Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and adjustments, as he told his team he was very loose going into the corners. He lost 4 positions on his stop and would restart P6.
Keselowski pushed Blaney to allow them both to gain position, and Keselowski would be scored in P4. Behind the leaders, drivers went 3-wide on the opening lap, and meanwhile, the track sprinklers came on to water the grass, drenching the end of pit road.
With 35 laps to go, Keselowski took P3 from Kurt Busch.
While Truex ran ahead with a lead of over 2 seconds on Blaney, and over a 6 second lead on the No. 2 in P3 with 15 laps to go.
As Truex took the checkered flag, Keselowski drove his No. 2 Ford Fusion to a P3 finish, which, as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said in the booth, had to be a confidence booster heading into the 2nd half of the regular season.
Post-race, Keselowski told NBCSports, “It was a good call from my crew chief, Paul Wolfe. We had better speed than we’ve had at the mile-and-a-halves, but not enough to run with the 78. He eventually got by us there and I thought we might have had a shot at it if we could have restarted fourth there, but we kind of cycled back to sixth and it wasn’t enough to be able to make something happen there. All in all, a decent day. I hate that I kind of dug a hole early in the race with the speeding on pit road. We were just racing the 18 off pit road and tried to get a little bit too much, but we’ll take this and hopefully build off of it for the mile-and-a-halves in the Playoffs. It’s gonna be really important and I’m looking forward to next week in Loudon. I think we’ll be really good there.”
DRIVER STANDINGS: Keselowski currently sits in 8th place as the first driver without a win, and 212 points above the cut line. He has 4 playoff points.
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July 10, 2018
Prior to heading to Kentucky Speedway, Brad Keselowski was among nearly twenty Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams that took part in the first day of testing at the Roval. For those unaware, the Roval is a new concept taking the oval track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and combining it with a portion of the road course. This track layout will be composed of 17 turns, totaling 2.28 miles. The Roval will end round 1 of the NASCAR Playoffs in September.
On Tuesday’s broadcast of NASCAR RaceHub on FS1, Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief for Darrell Wallace, Jr. spoke about how to approach a track like this where no one has any notes to rely on. He said, “It’s extremely difficult…. We look at the high speed corners (turns 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 of the oval track) - and ask how do you get through those good enough to then go through the slow sections…. Using a setup similar to Watkins Glen which is a faster road course - we entered the chicane on the backstretch at over 170 miles per hour....”
Bob Pockrass caught up with Keselowski, who described the Roval as “aggressive.” He went on to say, “It’s really tough with the curbs, you know Sonoma has the curbs, but they’re low-speed curbs. These are high-speed curbs and if you hit them just a little bit wrong, you’re going to wreck or tear your car up, so it’s just a different challenge.”
After some thinking, Keselowski continued, “It’s 50% slow speed, 50% high speed corners. Where the Glen is almost all high speed, and Sonoma is almost all low speed, so it’s really hard to trim your car up.”
Pockrass asked if it was more important to be better on the road course portion or the oval. Keselowski laughed and said, “I think you’re going to have to be good all the way around the track. But the slow parts of the track, there’s a lot of speed to be made up for sure.”
You can read more about the first Roval Test session here to learn the thoughts of other drivers in attendance.
What are your thoughts on the Roval? Share your thoughts with me here: @TerraLJ
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The following images are courtesy of Sarah Brown, creator and admin of the Team Penske Nation Facebook group. Big thanks to her for sharing them.
July 7, 2018
2.5mile Tri-Oval, Asphalt
160 laps/400 miles
Daytona and July 4th. These ideas are almost synonymous with each other in the NASCAR community. Brad Keselowski and the “2 Crew” have a win in the books at the July Daytona race in 2016, with an average finish of 19.7. He headed to Daytona International Speedway last weekend in a good spot in the points standings, and very confident sounding in interviews.
Keselowski had his Miller Lite Ford Fusion decked out in the Stars, Stripes & Lites for the second week in a row.
Drivers took to the track on Thursday afternoon for the opening session of two scheduled practice sessions. Strategies varied as drivers ran single car runs, as well as, ventured into packs to see how their cars handled in the draft. Keselowski finished opening practice in P3 with a top speed of 200.553mph. Final practice was washed out later Thursday afternoon, and teams waited, not knowing if qualifying would actually happen due to more rain in the forecast.
After massive rain showers rolled through the Daytona area on Friday afternoon, NASCAR officials got the track dried to proceed with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Qualifying, albeit a little later in the day than planned. Per Superspeedway rules, drivers would take to the track for single-car laps for two rounds of qualifying with the top 12 moving to round 2 to set the head of the field. Keselowski easily advanced to round 2, clocking in a time worthy of P5, and would ultimately qualify to start the race in P3.
Race Day & Stage 1:
Military members were honored by NASCAR teams on pit road prior to the start of the race, and once the green flag dropped, a confident Keselowski moved his car up a position within the first lap.
He and the other race leaders formed two solid lines, but drivers in the back of the lead pack were 3-wide battling for position.
In the opening laps, the high line was where the speed was, and Keselowski was in the bottom line, losing position and falling to P8 within the opening 8 laps.
By the middle of the opening stage, Keselowski fell to P23 trying to find the speed and put himself in position to get a run and get back to the front.
The closing laps of the opening stage brought an intense 3-wide battle for P2 through the lead pack, but Keselowski battled to finish the first stage in P8, earning 3 stage points.
During the end of stage caution, Keselowski and crew chief, Paul Wolfe, played some strategy and opted for two tires. This allowed Keselowski to win the race off pit road and start stage 2 in P1.
When the green flag dropped, Keselowski jumped ahead with the lead on the high line.
On lap 49, the first caution for contact came out as the No. 21 of Paul Menard got turned by Jimmie Johnson and went spinning, with all four of his tires coming off the ground at one point.
Keselowski led the field on the restart next to rookie, William Byron. Byron got the run and took the lead as Keselowski fell to P2.
But only 3 laps later, calamity struck as cars went spinning everywhere. Over 20 cars were involved in what would be one of a few “big ones” of the evening when Keselowski was being pushed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and went spinning. All of Team Penske was involved, ending the night for Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.
Once checked and released from the infield care center, NBC reporter Dave Burns caught up with a visibly frustrated Keselowski to get his thoughts. “It was just a bad block….There are times you can make a block, there are times you can’t….I made the mistake of lifting instead of wrecking (Byron) and that’s my fault. I take the blame.” You can see Keselowski’s full interview on NBCSports.com.
Keselowski would finish the night in P36.
Post-race, Keselowski was quoted, saying, “Ricky was doing the best he could to give me a good push and [I] had a great run to take the lead and the car in front of me just threw a late, bad block. I made the mistake of lifting instead of driving through him and that’s my fault. I know better than that. I’ve got to wreck more people and then they’ll stop blocking me late and behind like that. That’s my fault. I’ll take the credit for my team and we’ll go to Talladega and we’ll wreck everybody that throws a bad block like that.”
POINTS WATCH: With Erik Jones winning at Daytona, this shook up the points standings. Keselowski fell to 8th place, still the first driver without a win. He currently is 189 points above the cutoff line, with 4 playoff points.
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July 1, 2018
1.5mile, Tri-oval, Asphalt
400 miles/267 laps
As Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams headed north to Chicagoland Speedway, excessive heat warnings were likely not what they were expecting, but it was indeed in the forecast. Brad Keselowski headed to Chicago facing a track where he has two wins and an average finishing spot in the top 10. Keselowski’s No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion appropriately donned the stars and stripes kicking off the 4th of July weekend.
It was a shortened impound weekend with two practices on Saturday, followed by qualifying on Saturday night. With inspection happening after qualifying, a variety of strategies were implemented in opening practice.
Keselowski wrapped up opening practice in P13, but was 7th on the best average speed chart with twenty-two laps laid down.
NBC Broadcaster, Jeff Burton, noted that he was keeping his eye on the No. 2 this weekend because his race runs had been very good in opening practice. At the start of final practice, Keselowski made a mock qualifying run and immediately jumped to the top of the board, and that is where he stayed for the duration of the session.
#NASCAR | Bad Brad & the Fusions must like the HEAT! Fastest in final practice @ChicagolndSpdwy as #Ford peppers the top-10.— Ford Performance (@FordPerformance) June 30, 2018
□- @ClintBowyer pic.twitter.com/BJllUI5kIj
The three rounds of qualifying came and Keselowski was in the green but got loose when exiting turn 2. After all cars made their round 1 laps, Keselowski was in P17 and advanced to round 2. Keselowski was bumped from round 2 with about two and a half minutes remaining. With a few seconds remaining, he went out to attempt a second run, and jumped to P10 to advance to round 3. When all was said and done, Keselowski would line up P8.
Pre-race, NBCSN announcer Dave Burns caught up with Keselowski to get his thoughts on the race. Keselowski responded, “We’ve been really, really solid these last few weeks, but this is one of my favorite race tracks - it’s hot and slick. It makes it harder to get a hold of but I think that’s a challenge our team does really well with the Miller Lite Ford.”
As drivers prepared to run 400 miles, an excessive heat warning was announced for Sunday afternoon and, at the green flag, the “real feel” was 104 degrees. Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney, who started on the front row next to Paul Menard who won the pole, ran ahead to lead lap 1, while Keselowski moved up a spot. As drivers moved around the track to figure out where the best line was, Keselowski moved up to P6.
Lap 19 brought a new leader in Clint Bowyer and P5 for Keselowski, who had Kyle Larson on his tail.
On lap 28, Keselowski passed Blaney for P4 and he was now on the heels of a Stewart-Haas Racing trio of Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Aric Almirola.
Four laps later, Keselowski was battling Larson to maintain position.
Lap 34 brought green flag pit stops starting with Martin Truex Jr., who was splitting the stage in half. Keselowski was scored as the race leader waiting on word to pit, playing a little strategy and trying to stretch out the run a little longer. He eventually stopped on lap 47. Keselowski had a big piece of trash on the nose of his car, which his team cleared. He also got 4 tires and adjustments, as he was a little loose, and came out on track in P16.
Keselowski started his march back toward the front on fresher tires, gaining a position within 1 lap, and working his way to P12 within 2 more laps.
As the leaders on old tires made their pit stops, Keselowski gained even more positions. Keselowski was scored in P6 and that’s where he would finish stage 1, picking up 5 stage points.
Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, noting he was lacking rear grip on the long run. He was fourth off pit road, gaining 2 positions to start stage 2 in P4. Almirola and Kevin Harvick led the field to the green flag on lap 86.
Drivers went 4-wide for position on the restart, as Keselowski moved up to claim P3, which he maintained throughout the first half of the second stage.
Green flag stops began on lap 121 with Joey Logano starting the rush. Keselowski stopped early this time, on lap 122, for 4 tires, fuel and minor wedge and air pressure adjustments as Keselowski noted he was “way too tight on entry.” After the green flag stops cycled around, Keselowski was scored in P4.
The caution came out on lap 128 for debris on the track. Many of the leaders opted to pit again, including Keselowski, who took 4 tires and lost 3 positions to restart P8 on lap 132.
Drivers went 3-wide fighting for position on the restart as Keselowski gained two positions to take P6.
On lap 140, Keselowski lost P6 to Truex but race leader Almirola had to pit due to a loose wheel, which allowed Keselowski to jump back to P6. To finish the stage, Keselowski would come in P6 to snag 5 more stage points.
During the end of stage caution, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, and was fifth off pit road which allowed him to gain a position.
Keselowski would start P5 on lap 168, as teams were now racing the weather with storms moving into the area.
Cars fanned out 3-wide throughout the field on the restart. Keselowski fell to P6, but passed Blaney to take back his restart position.
On lap 177, Keselowski moved up to P4, and the caution came out as Denny Hamlin had a tire go down which sent Hamlin spinning coming off of turn 2.
Pit road opened and many took to pit road but Keselowski stayed out and was scored the race leader. He would restart next to Almirola on lap 182.
Keselowski ran ahead with the lead as drivers took the race 4-wide behind him.
Keselowski had a mirror full of Harvick on lap 185. On the next lap, Keselowski got loose and lost the lead to the No. 4 of Harvick. Keselowski then lost P2 to Logano.
At this point, scanner chatter was all about the weather moving into the area. It was clearly cloudy and broadcasters were noting that the wind was picking up, so the track was likely changing as well.
Over the next few laps, Keselowski continued to lose position as cars with fresher tires passed him, putting him in P6 on lap 195.
Lap 207 brought the next caution as Corey LaJoie hit the wall in turn 2, which led to a variety of pit strategies playing out.
Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and would restart P6 with 55 laps to go. Keselowski got a great run on the restart and moved up to P4, while Kyle Busch ran off with the lead.
The camera kept showing ominous clouds not far off in the distance and, while running P4, Keselowski called in to tell his team he had a loose wheel, noting that it “wasn’t that undrivable yet.”
Keselowski fell to P7, as the No. 18 of Busch and Harvick battled for the lead.
With 34 laps to go, Keselowski lost another position, hoping for a caution.
As the laps ticked by, Keselowski continued to lose ground, falling to P9. Meanwhile, Larson was running down Kyle Busch for the lead.
With 6 laps to go, Larson swiped the wall and lost his run on Kyle Busch. The no. 18 of Busch took the checkered flag, with Keselowski bringing the no. 2 home in P9.
Post-race, Keselowski was quoted, saying, “We struggled with some stuff out there today. Struggled with a vibration and we struggled with grip. We were a little better, probably a fifth place car today. I probably cost us a couple of spots but that is just the way it goes. I think we are the same we have been. We can run fifth-to-10th at the 1.5 mile tracks but we are behind the 78, 18 and Stewart-Haas cars.”
During post-race inspection, tweets indicated that NASCAR officials found a loose or missing lug nut on Keselowski’s car. This will bring a penalty, likely just a fine, which fans will hear more about later this week.
Teams head south to Daytona next weekend where Keselowski had a win in 2016.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is 7th, the first driver without a win, and 225 points above the cut line.
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June 24th, 2018
1.99 mile Road Course, Asphalt
219 Miles/110 Laps
After a fun and relaxing off week for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams, crews headed west to the wine country of Sonoma, California. In previous years at Sonoma Raceway, Brad Keselowski has finished in P3 (in 2017), with an average finish of 17.1.
Friday brought two practice sessions under gorgeous weather conditions. With about 15 minutes remaining in opening practice, FOX broadcasters were talking about Keselowski running in 22nd. They noted he was likely attempting race runs as opposed to qualifying runs. They pulled up the best 5 lap averages and he was in 7th place, which showed he was definitely working on the long, race runs and not qualifying laps. Keselowski finished opening practice in P23, but gave a thumbs up to the FOX camera crew while checking out his car in the garage.
Keselowski was quiet on the radio during final practice, and finished P7.
Qualifying on Saturday afternoon took place under very hot, slick conditions. There were two rounds (as opposed to the three rounds at oval tracks) with the top 12 advancing to round 2. Keselowski would advance to round two and start Sunday’s race in P10.
Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr. would lead the field to green as drivers prepared for elevation changes, left and right hand turns, hills, esses, and more that this unique road course had to offer.
Throughout the opening laps, Keselowski would be shuffled between P10 and P11 as Larson ran ahead with the lead, which he held till lap 4. From lap 5 through the end of stage one, Keselowski slowly worked his way through the front of the field, ending stage 1 in P2, thanks to green flag pit stops for the leaders, earning 9 stage points.
Keselowski took to pit road under the end-of-stage caution for 4 tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment, letting his team know he was “losing lateral grip.”
Keselowski started stage 2 in P13, taking his Discount Tire Ford Fusion 3-wide with Larson and Chase Elliott for position in the opening laps.
Lap 34 brought the only caution for incident throughout the entire race as stage 1 winner, AJ Allmendinger, missed a shift and blew his engine. Under this caution, Jamie McMurray had to be pushed to the garage for mechanical issues, which would eventually end his day.
Cars lined up for the restart, with Keselowski in P10, on lap 37. Over the next 2 laps, Keselowski worked his way up to P8, but lost that position to teammate, Joey Logano, when Keselowski got loose and took all four tires off the track and through the dirt.
Throughout this time, Truex and Kevin Harvick were dominating the race.
With 3 laps to go in stage 2, green flag pit stops again shuffled drivers around when the leaders opted to pit. Keselowski stayed out and finished the stage in P4, picking up 7 stage points.
Under the end-of-stage caution, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel to restart the final stage in P19.
Harvick took off with the lead and over the next few laps, Keselowski worked his way up to P11. But with 44 laps to go, he called in to tell his team he was losing the front turn of the car, yelling, “It just won’t turn!”
Four laps later, green flag pit stops started with teams employing a variety of strategies. Keselowski stayed out at this point, working his way up to P8 before stopping with 28 laps to go. His team filled his car with fuel and put on 4 fresh tires, getting him back on track in P21.
Throughout the closing laps, Truex dominated, with a 24 second lead over second place at one point. Keselowski hovered between P13 and P14, claiming P13 when the checkered flag dropped.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski sits in 7th place (the first driver without a win), 208 points above the cut line, with 4 playoff points.
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June 17, 2018
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is already fifteen races into the 2018 season so it seemed appropriate to take the off-weekend for Cup teams to recap the season for Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team of Team Penske thus far.
Keselowski has four top-5 and nine top-10 finishes so far. In the first fifteen races this season, he has finished in the following positions:
Daytona (Daytona 500) - P32 (DNF)
Atlanta - P2
Las Vegas - P6
Phoenix - P15
Fontana - P4
Martinsville - P10
Texas - P33 (DNF)
Bristol - P32
Richmond - P8
Talladega - P33 (DNF)
Dover - P6
Kansas - P14
Charlotte (Coca-Cola 600) - P4
Pocono - P5
Michigan - P6
By this point in the 2017 season, Keselowski had 2 wins under his belt at Martinsville and Atlanta, and an average finish of 12.7.
Keselowski is still seeking that elusive first win this season and his average finish is 13.4.
While Keselowski has yet to start from the pole this season, he has started in the top 5 on six different occasions, and from the front row once, which occured at his home track in Michigan.
He has earned 514 points this season, and is currently ranked 4th. In the Playoff Standings, he is ranked 7th, as the first driver without a win.
His sponsors this season have included:
Discount Tire (3 races) with a tribute to Bruce Halle
AutoTrader (2 races)
Alliance Truck Parts (2 races)
Wurth (2 races)
Reese/DrawTite (1 race)
Snap-On Tools (1 race)
Stars, Stripes and Lites (1 race)
Miller Lite (3 races)
Keselowski fans should keep their eyes on Talladega, as that is the track with Keselowski’s last Cup win, but he is likely hoping he will not have to wait that long before taking the checkered flag again.
He also had top 5 finishes at Sonoma, Indianapolis, Loudon, Martinsville, and Texas last year. This begs the question: Where do you think Keselowski will land his first win of the season?
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Shoutout to the Team Penske Nation Facebook group! These three pictures were provided to me by fans of this group. Thank you.
June 10, 2018
FireKeepers Casino 400
Michigan International Speedway
2 mile D-Shaped Oval, asphalt
400 Miles, 200 Laps
NASCAR teams headed to Michigan International Speedway this weekend which is the home track for Brad Keselowski. He is trying hard to be the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to win at this track. In his 17 starts at MIS, Keselowski’s average finish is 12.8, with his highest being P2.
Opening practice on Friday morning was delayed a few minutes for debris and oil on the track, but once things got rolling, there were nine drivers with speeds over 200mph. Keselowski finished P3 with a top speed of 201.87mph.
Qualifying came later Friday afternoon. Keselowski finished round 1 in P3, round 2 brought him in P5, with a top speed of 219.22mph, and round 3 brought Keselowski to P2 to start Sunday’s race on the front row next to Kurt Busch.
Post-qualifying, FOX Reporter Regan Smith caught up with Keselowski and noted he would have a good view of the start of the race from the front row. He asked Keselowski how close he was to snagging the pole. Keselowski said, “We were right there, just a small mistake in (turns) 1 and 2…. I want to give credit to Paul (Wolfe) and the team...they made good adjustments...I just didn’t get all the gains…. But it’s a good starting spot for the Miller Lite Ford, and hopefully we can get that first win on Sunday.”
Saturday had two practice sessions on the schedule, however only the morning practice took place, and was shortened because of rain. Keselowski finished this session in P5 with a top speed of 199.529mph.
Sunday’s race was delayed because of more rain that was moving through the area. During the pre-race delay, Smith once again caught up with Keselowski and noted, “No Michigan driver has ever won here before (in the Cup series). Where would it rank for you?” Keselowski responded, “We’ve been close...it stings. You want to win at your home track. This track hasn’t always suited me…. I think we have a great car…. You have to put the whole thing together.... It’s easier said than done.”
Regan brought up Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation and all the extra events he has with that and this type of “homecoming,” and asked if that adds more pressure to make it to Victory Lane. Keselowski said, “It doesn’t help…. There are more distractions at your home race than anywhere else...on the other side, it’s more rewarding…. I feel like if we were to win today, it’d be like the Daytona 500 for me!”
The rain and track drying efforts continued for 2.5 hours and NASCAR announced there would be a competition caution on lap 25 once the green flag dropped. Once drivers were called to their cars, the command was given and drivers took to the track for pace laps. The green flag dropped and Kurt Busch and Keselowski led the field to green. NASCAR fans waited in anticipation to see if a full race would be completed, or if drivers would be racing to the end of stage 2.
Keselowski looked to have the faster car as the green flag dropped, but as Kurt Busch took the lead and Keselowski fell to P3, he called to inform his team he “had to lift because he didn’t want to beat the 41 to the line,” which would have been a penalty.
Keselowski called in on lap 15 to tell his team he was free in turn 3, and right everywhere else.
The competition caution came on lap 25 and Keselowski came in for 4 tires, fuel, and small adjustments. He was fourth off pit road and would restart P4 with 31 laps left in stage 1.
It was a very exciting restart as drivers took it 4-wide and Keselowski was able to push ahead of Harvick to claim P2.
The caution came out with 25 laps to go as Darrell Wallace, Jr. got loose and made contact with David Ragan who spun and hit the wall, resulting in an early end to his day.
A few drivers took to the pits during the caution, but Keselowski stayed out to maintain position. He would restart P2 with 20 laps to go.
Keselowski fell back to P5 as cars flew past him on the restart due to being on the bottom lane.
With 11 to go, Matt DiBenedetto headed to the pits with a cut right, rear tire without bringing out the caution.
With 4 to go, Keselowski told his team he “was very tight from the center off.” At this time, the caution came out for Matt Kenseth with a flat tire. Pit road stayed closed and there would be a 1 lap shootout for the stage.
Keselowski finished stage 1 in P6, earning 5 stage points. He stopped during the end-of-stage caution for 4 tires, fuel, and adjustments for his car that was “way too tight.”
Keselowski would start stage 2 in P10, with talk of rain moving into the area. Within the opening lap, Keselowski worked his way up to P6.
At the end of the restart lap, Daniel Suarez brought out the caution as he got loose in turn 4 and went spinning.
Keselowski would restart P6 on lap 12. He was able to restart on the high lane and he worked his way up to P4. Two laps later, he gained another position to take P3.
As Harvick ran ahead with the lead, Keselowski maintained P3.
On lap 25, Kyle Larson brought out the caution as he spun out when his left, rear tire went down. Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for fuel, 4 tires, and adjustments as he noted he was “free on entry.”
Keselowski would restart P12 with 30 laps to go. During this caution, teams implemented a variety of strategies, as Twitter, crew chief, and spotter chatter was all abuzz with the talk of rain on the radar.
When the green flag dropped, Keselowski gained a position to P10, and Harvick ran ahead with the lead. Within a few laps, Keselowski gained another position to claim P9.
With 18 to go, Keselowski took P8 from fellow Michigander, Erik Jones.
Three laps later, Keselowski flew past Jamie McMurray for P7, which he maintained through the end of the stage to pick up 4 more stage points.
Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and minor adjustments, and while he was the fastest car on track for the last 10 laps of the stage, he noted that he was too tight.
He would restart the stage P6, with reports of fog and rain sprinkles being overheard on the radio and over social media. Harvick and Clint Bowyer led the field to green, and Bowyer ran ahead with the lead. Drivers were now racing the weather, and the action did not disappoint.
On lap 129, the caution came out as Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. hit the wall in turn 2 and went spinning. During this caution, the rain started to come down harder.
NASCAR brought the cars to pit road and brought out the red flag on lap 133. A few minutes later, the race was officially called with Bowyer earning the win.
Keselowski finished P6.
Teams now head into an off weekend, and then to Sonoma for road course racing.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently in 7th place as the first driver without a win. He is 187 points above the cut line, with 4 playoff points.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
Shop here now for Brad Keselowski gear!
June 3, 2018
2.5 mile triangle, asphalt
400 Miles, 160 Laps
Teams headed to Pocono Raceway this weekend to try and tackle the Tricky Triangle. Meanwhile, rain was in the forecast once again.
Opening practice started with a delay as officials worked on drying weepers from the track. While teams waited, FOX Reporter Matt Yocum caught up with Brad Keselowski to talk about the “fun factor” at Pocono, between the three turns and the wide straightaway which allowed drivers to go 4 and 5-wide, and sometimes more.
Keselowski said, “It’s a unique track. No one’s ever going to accuse Pocono of being a cookie-cutter track! But I enjoy it. Each corner has its own challenges, then you get real long straightaways, you stretch out and think about it, and it’s super fast! It’s definitely a unique track that requires a unique approach from both the team and the driver.”
In 16 spring and summer starts at Pocono Raceway, Keselowski has had an average finish of 10.5, including a win in 2011.
Keselowski’s sponsor for this race was Wurth Racing.
Once opening practice started, many drivers opted for race trim runs because they were not sure if qualifying would actually happen later in the day due to rain forecasted in the area. Once the session wrapped up, Keselowski finished P14 with a top speed of 174.078mph.
Qualifying was able to happen and Keselowski easily advanced to round two, but did not have enough to make it to round three. He would qualify to start Sunday’s race in P17.
Saturday morning brought the second and final practice session, along with gorgeous sunshine. At the end of practice, Keselowski was P20 with a top speed of 172.447mph.
Temperatures were cooler and the sky was cloudier than expected as Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick led the field to green on Sunday afternoon. Blaney shot ahead with a commanding lead, and behind him, cars were fanned out 3-wide.
Keselowski called to his team to say his car was “just ridiculous.” He fell to P19, but by lap 9 had worked his way back to his starting position of 17th.
On lap 11, spotter Joey Meier informed Keselowski that he was fastest car on track at the moment as he moved up to P16. On this lap, Harvick took the lead from Blaney.
Four laps later, Keselowski gained another position as he passed William Byron for P15.
Keselowski moved to P13 when Blaney took to pit road, which triggered green flag stops for many drivers. Keselowski was scored in P11 on lap 19.
On lap 22, Keselowski hit P10, and five laps later, Keselowski had worked his way to P2 as he waited for the leader to pit.
Two laps later, Keselowski was able to take the lead, which he held for 10 laps until he took to the pits on lap 34.
After his stop, Keselowski worked hard moving toward the head of the field throughout the next few laps, being scored P12 with 7 to go.
FOX Rules Analyst, Larry McReynolds, noted that Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, told him earlier in the day, “We don’t have one of the best cars. We won’t do what the leaders do.” Keselowski proved this by staying out so long in stage 1.
On the final lap of stage 1, Keselowski took P10 from teammate Joey Logano, as Logano ran out of fuel. Thanks to this, Keselowski earned 1 stage point.
During the end of stage caution, Keselowski stopped for 2 tires and fuel, gaining 9 positions to restart P1, next to Harvick.
PRN tweeted an interesting note during the caution, saying, “Keselowski's been told his fuel mileage is about a lap better than expected so far. That will be something to keep an eye on, as Team Penske’s No. 2 has been known to win a few races on fuel mileage.”
At the restart, Blaney gave a solid push to Harvick to allow him to take the lead, and within 3 laps, Harvick had a nearly 2 second lead over Keselowski.
On lap 11, Kyle Busch took over P2 from Keselowski.
To play into the strategy that Keselowski and Wolfe like to do, Keselowski pitted on lap 17 from P3 for 4 tires and fuel.
After his stop, he was scored in P23.
On lap 27, the current leaders started their green flag pit stops. Once these finished and drivers cycled around, Keselowski was scored in P4, but since it had been 17 laps since his stop, drivers were starting to catch up to him.
With 13 to go, he was P3 over Austin Dillon who had yet to pit. Once he did, he had to battle Clint Bowyer for P3, with Bowyer eventually winning out.
Over the next few laps, Keselowski fell back to P7.
At the end of stage 2, Keselowski was scored in P7, earning 4 stage points.
Under caution, Keselowski took to the pits, letting his team know that he was “tight, late center.” He got 4 tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment to restart P13.
After the stop, Wolfe was heard over the radio saying, “Let’s stick to the plan.”
It was worth noting that it had been a clean, caution free (for incident) race until this point.
As the green flag dropped, Harvick jumped ahead with the lead, while behind him, Kyle Larson took it 3-wide in turn 2 for P3.
At this point, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto were all reporting issues. Wallace’s day ended as he lost an engine.
With 44 laps to go, Keselowski moved to P10 and DiBenedetto headed to the garage with brake issues.
Four laps later, Kasey Kahne headed to the garage with transmission trouble. Keselowski was holding steady in P10.
With 36 to go, the caution came out as Derrike Cope went spinning.
As pit road opened, Keselowski fans were wondering if Wolfe was indeed going to try something sneaky and strategic. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and was ninth off pit road and would restart P9, with 31 to go.
After some shuffling on the restart, Keselowski lost a position, while Kyle Busch ran ahead with the lead.
Keselowski reclaimed P9, and with 25 to go, he took P8 from Jimmie Johnson.
With 21 laps to go, the caution came out for debris in turn 1. When pits opened, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, was sixth out of the pits, and would restart P9 with 17 to go.
Three laps after the green came back out, Denny Hamlin and Alex Bowman made contact and this incident ended Hamlin’s day. Keselowski was scored in P7.
When the pits opened, Keselowski opted to stay out, allowing him to maintain P7 with 10 to go.
When the green flag dropped, the caution immediately came back out as there was minor contact between Logano and Erik Jones.
Keselowski had been shuffled back to P8 with 7 to go. Over the next few laps, Keselowski was slowly working his way up, but he ran out of laps. As Truex took the checkered flag, Keselowski came home P5.
FOX Pit Reporter Jamie Little caught up with Keselowski as he was leaving the track to discuss the strategy he and Wolfe tried. In summary, Keselowski said that it was a long weekend, but the car was better in the race than in practice. He gave credit to Wolfe and everyone working on the No. 2 car, saying “that was the most speed we’ve had in a while.”
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently in 7th as the first driver without a win, with 474 points and 4 Playoff Points.
Next week, NASCAR heads to Keselowski’s home track of Michigan International Speedway.
Follow and Chat with me here: @TerraLJ
Shop here now for Brad Keselowski gear!
May 26, 2018
Xfinity Series: Alsco 300
Brad Keselowski pulled double duty this weekend, piloting the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford in the Xfinity Series. Fox Reporter Jamie Little caught up with Keselowski after the final Xfinity practice, which he led, noting that he had the best 5 and 10 lap averages. She asked how his car was handling and Keselowski responded, “We took off strong, but we had more fall off than we’d like….but the 22 is really, really fast.”
Keselowski had an excellent qualifying session on Saturday morning to start the Alsco 300 later that afternoon in P1.
Keselowski led 24 laps and finished stage 1 in P5, but a botched pit stop had him starting stage 2 in P14. Stage 2 brought a late caution and Keselowski took to pit road for 4 tires and to repair damage from contact earlier in the race. This caused him to finish the stage in P21, but broadcasters noted this was most likely some strategy coming into play. The late stop allowed Keselowski to start the third and final stage in P1.
About halfway through the final stage, there was a caution and Keselowski took to the pits, but was penalized for having a crew member over the wall too soon. He had to restart P22 with 69 laps remaining. Keselowski got to work, but with 28 to go, the red flag came out for rain.
Drivers parked their cars along pit road with Keselowski in P1. After the rain subsided, track officials got to work drying the track for what was sure to be an exciting end to the race. After a caution-filled final few laps, including an overtime restart, Keselowski came out the winner, bringing the fourth Team Penske Xfinity Series win this season.
May 27, 2018
Charlotte Motor Speedway
1.5 mile Quad Oval, Asphalt
600 miles, 400 laps
As NASCAR entered one of the most patriotic weekends in the season, fans of the ‘Blue Deuce’ looked forward to hearing who and how Keselowski, known for going above and beyond to honor and assist military members and their families, would honor a fallen service member for the Coca-Cola 600 as part of the NASCAR Salutes initiative.
Wednesday morning, Team Penske announced that Keselowski would be honoring United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Chris Eckard. Eckard was a close friend of Casey Mahoney, a Team Penske employee, who nominated Eckard for the honor after he lost his life in Afghanistan.
Wednesday evening was exciting as Roger Penske was announced as an inductee to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. All three Penske drivers carried a congratulations on the rear of their cars for the Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR fans watched the weather yet again to see if rain would impact any portion of the race weekend. Luckily, Thursday afternoon’s opening practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series went off without a hitch. Keselowski took to the track and immediately jumped to P2 below teammate Ryan Blaney. After the red flag dropped on the 50-minute session, Keselowski was P3, with a top speed of 189.43mph.
Qualifying came Thursday evening and Keselowski easily advanced to round 2 in P10. He took to the track immediately for round 2, but would have to wait 10 minutes to see where he would end up. Ultimately, he would indeed advance to round 3, coming in P11. The final round of qualifying wrapped up and Keselowski would start Sunday’s race P5. Penske teammates, Joey Logano and Blaney would roll out P2 and P8, respectively.
Fox Reporter Matt Yocum caught up with Keselowski after qualifying and asked him where his car was good. Keselowski responded, “We couldn’t get it to turn. It was great on the straightaway...a lot of stability, just couldn’t get it to turn. The PJ1 [traction compound] came in for qualifying and teams weren’t prepared for that.”
Yocum asked Keselowski what the win would mean, noting how he is a proud supporter of our troops and it being Memorial Day Weekend, as well as this being a crown jewel race. Keselowski’s best finish in the Coca-Cola 600 is P5, and he said, “That’s it. I don’t have a crown jewel win...It’d be very fitting to see the Miller Lite Ford Fusion in Victory Lane this weekend.”
Drivers had Friday off, then returned for two practice sessions on Saturday morning, however, the early practice was scrubbed due to heavy rain moving through the area. Teams were able to take to the track for final practice, and Keselowski finished in P22.
It was also worth noting that Keselowski would not have his spotter, Joey Meier, in his ear throughout this race as Meier was out of town for his son's graduation from the Naval Academy. Jefferson Hodges was his substitute for the weekend.
In a pre-race interview, teammate Logano hit the nail on the head saying the winner would be the driver that could keep up with the ever-changing track conditions.
As Kyle Busch and Logano led the field to the drop of the green flag, Logano would get the run and lead the first six laps until the No. 18 of Busch took over. Throughout the first dozen laps, Keselowski fell to P7. As he fell to P10 on lap 22, he called in to say, “We’re really bad here. It lands and front end does nothing, then I get on the throttle and I’m pretty loose...it’s so bad...I can’t get into the corner at all.”
Lap 37 brought out the first caution as Austin Dillon cut a tire and scraped the wall. Keselowski came in for 4 tires and an air pressure adjustment, and would restart P10 on lap 44.
Over the next few laps, Keselowski fell to P12 as he struggled, like many drivers, with the handling of his car. Meanwhile, the No. 18 of Busch pulled ahead for a commanding lead over the majority of the stage.
On lap 73, Keselowski had fallen to P14 and radioed in to inform his team that the front end was crashing into the track on entry and he was sliding sideways, loose on exit.
The next caution came out on lap 83 as Kevin Harvick, who was in P4, had his left, front tire go down, which caused him to slam the wall in turn 3.
Keselowski took to pit road, but missed his stall to restart P1 with 12 laps to go. However, on old tires, he had a terrible restart and fell to P16, nearly taking the surrounding field with him.
With 5 to go, Keselowski was barely hanging on to the lead lap in P26. Fighting his way through, he managed to finish the stage in P26. He stopped this time for 4 tires, fuel and adjustments.
Kyle Busch and Blaney would lead the field to green on lap 108 with Keselowski in P26.
On lap 14 of stage 2, William Byron slid into the wall and had “pretty major right, rear damage”. As he limped around the track, the caution came out on lap 15. At this point, Keselowski was in P24. Keselowski opted to pit this time, and would restart P28 on lap 20.
On the restart lap, Jimmie Johnson got loose after contact with Denny Hamlin. Logano was on an incredible run from the back and almost slammed right into Johnson. Logano made a save to avoid the No. 48 of Johnson, but got loose doing so. Both went spinning and somehow managed to avoid each other, other drivers, and the wall. After the chaos died down, Keselowski would restart P22 on lap 24.
Green flag pit stops started with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on lap 56, and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and adjustments, coming out a lap down in P25. After the leaders stopped, he cycled around to the lead lap.
As the No. 18 of Busch ran away with the lead, and stage 2, Keselowski finished the stage in P17, as the first car 1 lap down.
Pit road opened and he stopped for 4 tires, fuel and adjustments. He also earned the free pass to get back on the lead lap.
Keselowski would start stage 3 in P16 on lap 208, and he remained in that position over the next 18 laps while Kyle Busch again ran off with the lead.
The next caution would come out on lap 26 as Gray Gaulding got loose in turns 3 and 4 and went through the grass.
After a round of pit stops, Keselowski moved up to restart P11 on lap 31, but would fall to P14 by the end of that lap.
The next caution came at lap 58 as Chris Buescher got into the wall with major right side damage.
Keselowski opted to pit for 4 tires and would restart P13 with 36 to go, working his way up to P10 within 1 lap.
After Keselowski moved his way up to P9, another caution came out with 28 to go as Kyle Larson got loose and slid into the wall. Keselowski stopped and would restart P14, with 22 to go.
Immediately the caution came out for Blaney as his car was covered in flames. Blaney had been dealing with engine issues for the majority of the race and it finally gave out.
It took numerous laps to get the track cleaned up, but the race went green with 15 to go, and Keselowski in P7.
With 13 to go, Keselowski got a run and made it up to P5, and two laps later, took P4 from Jamie McMurray.
As stage 3 wrapped up with Kyle Busch winning the stage, Keselowski came in P3, collecting 8 stage points.
Keselowski stopped during the end-of-stage caution, telling his team his car was “really free off and really bad over the bumps.” He also noted that he couldn’t “park it like the 18 or the 20” could. His crew gave him 4 tires and fuel. He came off pit road 2nd to start the final stage in P2.
The No. 18 of Busch was no match for the No. 2 of Keselowski as he got a solid run and took off on a commanding lead for the start of the final stage.
With 75 to go, crew chief, Paul Wolfe said, “Do what the car will give you,” as Keselowski held steady in P2. Four laps later, Martin Truex, Jr. claimed P2 from Keselowski.
Green flag stops started with 59 laps to go. Keselowski stopped with 53 laps to go for 4 tires and fuel, and after all drivers cycled around, Keselowski was scored in P2.
With 35 laps to go, Keselowski battled Truex to maintain P2, but Truex eventually won out.
Twenty laps later, Keselowski fell to P4 as Hamlin took the 3rd spot from him.
As the final laps clicked by, Kyle Busch continued his dominance and went on to win the Coca-Cola 600. Keselowski earned a hard fought P4.
Post-race, Keselowski was quoted, saying “I thought the 78 (Truex) was really strong, him and the 18 (Busch) were probably pretty close. I don’t know, he had some kind of issues that kept holding him back, but they were just in another league. I ran as hard as I could tonight and the team did a great job the last few stops to put us in a position and that was just kind of what we had. We’ll go back to the drawing board and try to find some more speed. If we keep this execution that we had tonight, then we’ll get some wins, but we’ve got to have more speed.”
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently in 7th with 437 points, with 4 Playoff Points.
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Shop here now for Brad Keselowski gear!
May 19, 2018
Charlotte Motor Speedway
1.5 mile Quad Oval, Asphalt
120 miles, 80 laps
No one was surprised when rain managed to interfere with on-track activity leading up to the All-Star Race. On Friday, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams were scheduled to have two separate practice sessions. However, due to forecasted rain, NASCAR officials called for a long, marathon session for the Cup series, but even with that change, only a handful of drivers were able to take laps before rain washed out the majority of the practice session.
During the weather-related, red flagged practice, FOX Reporter Jamie Little caught up with Brad Keselowski. Keselowski was only able to get 1 lap on track prior to the rain moving in. He mentioned that the cars were a lot slower, but also noted that it was the “dumbest thing” he had ever done, going “wide open around Charlotte Motor Speedway in the rain.”
Little went on to ask Keselowski his take on the implemented All-Star Race changes. Keselowski responded, “I like that we’re trying [something different], but disagree with what we’re trying.” He went on to say that he was hoping to get some practice time to learn all the different scenarios that could come up, how the draft was going to come into play, and how the handling on the cars would be.
With minimal laps in the opening practice, Keselowski came out in 9th place, with a top speed of 166.215mph.
The qualifying session for the All-Star Open was cancelled due to rain, so those drivers that were hoping to race their way into the All-Star Race would have to line up based on owner points.
Qualifying for the All-Star Race was able to happen as scheduled, and the experts felt it wasn’t going to disappoint. Cars would take to the track for single car qualifying, taking 2 laps, pitting for a 4-tire pit stop, with no pit road speeds, and then finish with 1 final lap. Added on to their final time would be a 5-second penalty for every pit road infraction. As a reminder, all this would happen with virtually no practice time and on a green track.
There was a blind draw to set the order of qualifying, and Keselowski would qualify second. All drivers interviewed had a nervous, yet excited, air about them, and words used to describe the session prior to the green flag were “wild”, “unknown”, and “interesting.”
Keselowski took to the track for his 2 laps and pulled into his pit box perfectly, with his crew executing a 17.2 second stop. After his final lap, and no penalties, his total time was 2:09.63. Keselowski and his crew would have to wait for 15 more drivers to take their qualifying laps before finding out where he would start.
After all drivers finished their qualifying sessions, Keselowski would start P8, with Roush Fenway Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. starting on the front row. Penske teammates, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano would start P6 and P10.
Late Friday night, NASCAR announced there would be a 1-hour combined All-Star Open and Race practice Saturday morning. The practice session was completed with Keselowski in P13, with his fastest speed at 171.789mph. He was also in the top 5 for best consecutive 10 lap averages.
Drivers in the Open needed to race their way into the All-Star race by winning one of the first two stages, or the race. There was also the Fan Vote that would lock in one more driver who didn’t win a stage or the Open. Tensions were high as Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez led the field to green for the start of the Open as no one really knew what to expect out of the cars with minimal practice time with the new aero packages. But once all was said and done, Alex Bowman, Suarez, and AJ Allmendinger raced their way into the All-Star Race and Chase Elliott won the fan vote.
FOX Broadcaster Chris Meyers and Bryson Byrnes, son of late Steve Byrnes, helped Michael Waltrip with the pre-race Grid Walk. Meyers caught up with Keselowski for his thoughts and he shared, “We’ve been so close in the past. We’ve come in 2nd place, we’ve led 100-some laps, but I feel optimistic tonight! It feels like [the race package] Daytona in July.”
Stage 1, 30 laps:
The green flag dropped and Stenhouse took P1 to lead lap 1, while Keselowski had worked his way up to P6.
Lap 2 brought out the first caution of the night as Kurt Busch went spinning as he got loose when he was in the middle of a 3-wide pack into turn 4. He hit the wall and had minor damage, taking to pit road for repairs.
The green flag came back out on lap 6 with Keselowski in P7 as Kevin Harvick pulled ahead for the lead.
Over the next two laps, drivers were going 3-wide, battling for position. Keselowski was shuffled around, back to P9 and as far up as P6.
While the high line was the preferred groove, drivers were taking advantage of the entire track by the middle of the first stage to gain position.
On lap 28, Keselowski, currently P11, reported that his car was “really tight.”
Harvick won stage 1, and Keselowski came in P11.
Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and air pressure adjustments. He gained 8 spots to start stage 2 in P8.
Stage 2, 20 laps:
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. were the leaders for this stage with sparks flying from under many of the cars as the green flag dropped. Keselowski worked his way up to P5, but traded P6 and P7 with Jimmie Johnson over the next couple of laps, settling into P9 by lap 7.
Kyle Busch continued to dominate this stage with the rest of the field battling behind him, attempting to work their way up to try and take the lead.
Lap 13 sent Allmendinger into the wall, but he saved it to keep the race green. Meanwhile, Keselowski had fallen to P11.
With 3 laps to go in stage 2, Truex and Suarez were bumping doors down the back straightaway, fighting for P2. While they were battling, Kyle Larson snuck into the picture to take P3.
Kyle Busch took the win for stage 2, while Keselowski was again P11.
Keselowski told his crew that his car “was bouncing tight over the bumps in Turn 3” during the 20-lap run. His crew chief, Paul Wolfe, opted to play a little strategy taking right side tires only. This allowed Keselowski to win the race off pit road, gaining 10 positions to start stage 3 in P1.
Wolfe told him, “It’s all about who gets hooked up and pushes,” and Keselowski would have Truex pushing him to the restart zone.
Stage 3, 20 laps:
With Keselowski leading the way, and Kyle Busch next to him, stage 3 was sure to be exciting as the race drew closer to the end and someone winning the coveted $1 million.
Keselowski did indeed get a nice run, thanks to a push from Truex, and both were able to clear Kyle Busch, with Truex making a move to officially lead lap 1. Larson gave Keselowski a push for most of lap 3, and that was when Keselowski finally took the lead.
Lap 5 had Keselowski going high and low, blocking all lanes, but Truex finally overtaking him for the lead in the middle of Turn 4.
One lap later (lap 56/80), Kasey Kahne got into the wall when he tried to make a run on Suarez, bringing out the caution.
Over the radio, fans could hear Keselowski venting, “I got passed running wide open. This thing is a turd.”
Truex and Keselowski would lead the field to green with 10 to go in stage 3. Larson gave Keselowski a solid push into turn 1, but coming out of turn 4, Truex took the lead.
As the battle ramped up, Keselowski got shuffled back to P7, two positions behind Logano and one ahead of Blaney.
With 6 to go in stage 3, Larson and Truex were door to door for the lead, with Suarez, Logano and Kyle Busch all fighting for position behind them.
With 4 to go, Keselowski was shuffled back to P10.
Two laps later, Bowman got loose and hit the wall sending sparks flying, sustaining minor right side damage, bringing out the caution.
Pit road opened and about half of the leaders came in for fresh tires. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and would restart P14.
Larson and Suarez would lead the field to the overtime restart of green, white, checkered.
Coming out of turn 3, cars were 3-deep and 3-wide, jockeying for position and you could feel that something was brewing.
Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Truex, and Stenhouse were 4-wide when Truex, in the blink of an eye, got loose after minor contact with Stenhouse. He hit Kurt Busch, slammed into Keselowski, and collected Kenseth, Bowyer, and Kyle Busch along the way.
Stage 4, 10 laps:
Harvick went on to win the All-Star Race and Team Penske, who had a strong presence in the All-Star Race, finished up:
Post-race, Keselowski had the following to say regarding the aero package: “You definitely seem to draft more, which has its highs and lows. Track position, power and drag is super important. Give us a few weeks to work on the race cars with a package like this, and I am sure we can mess it up.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on the All-Star Open and Race. Did you enjoy the rules and aero-package that NASCAR implemented for this race? Do you think we will see this package in the future?
Follow and Chat with me here: @TerraLJ
Shop now for Brad Keselowski gear!
also in NASCAR 101
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Saturday, May 19, 2018
8PM ET on FS1
1.5 mile Quad Oval, Asphalt
120 miles, 80 laps
Each year, NASCAR makes changes to the format and rules of the All-Star Race. They do this not only to shake things up within the competition, but also to adjust to new car bodies and rules packages.
What is different on the cars this year?
As drivers hit the track to win $1 million in the 2018 All-Star race, the biggest changes they will face this year will be the addition of engine restrictor plates for the first time ever at Charlotte, and revised aerodynamic features. This change is based on results from an Xfinity race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017.
According to a NASCAR press release, “For the All-Star event, cars will use a splitter borrowed from the 2014 rules package with a 2018 radiator pan, a 6-inch tall spoiler with two ‘ear’ extensions measuring 12 inches tall, and manufacturer-specific air ducts designed to minimize the advantage of lead cars in undisturbed air.”
All of this is done in an effort to boost competition on track between the drivers.
What is different with the rules this year?
There will be 4 stages to the 80 lap All-Star race, with stages ending at laps 30, 50, 70, and 80. To make things even more exciting, only green flag laps will count in the final stage, and overtime rules will be in effect at the end of each stage.
President and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc, Marcus Smith said, “It’s the perfect opportunity to try something different, and with a 10-lap shootout for a million dollars, expect the unexpected on May 19.”
While this year’s race will be 10 laps longer than previous years, there will be no mandated pit stops, no choice of alternate tire compounds, nor will there be lineup inversions or eliminations.
Who is eligible?
This is one area that remains mostly unchanged. The following drivers are eligible:
• Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series race winners in 2017 and 2018 to date: Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr. (16 drivers total)
• Former All-Star Race winners who are competing full-time: Jamie McMurray
• Series champions who are not otherwise eligible: None
• The three stage winners in the Monster Energy Open qualifying race. This will take place prior to the main event. The Open will be 3 stages. The first two stages will be 20 laps each, and the final stage will be 10 laps. The winners of the 3 stages will advance to the All-Star Race.
• The winner of the fan vote. If your favorite (or second, or third …) favorite isn’t already eligible, you can vote for your driver through 11:59pm on May 18th by clicking HERE. If you share your vote through social media, your vote will count double. It is worth noting that the winners of The Open will be eliminated from the fan vote as they win.
It is also worth noting that the winner of the All-Star race does not clinch a spot in the playoffs unless that driver wins one of the regular season races.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the changes to the format and rules for the All-Star Race.
Follow and Chat with me here: @TerraLJ
May 12, 2018
1.5 mile Tri-oval, Asphalt
400.5 miles, 267 laps
Heading into the weekend at Kansas Speedway, it was worth noting that Brad Keselowski won the Kansas Spring race in June 2011, and Penske teammate Joey Logano was the last Ford winner in Fall of 2015.
Mother Nature once again changed up the weekend schedule. Friday morning there was rain in the area, and more expected later Friday afternoon, so instead of 2 short practice sessions, NASCAR called for “one long, marathon session”, according to FOX Broadcaster, Mike Joy. At the end of the long session, Keselowski finished 11th, with his fastest speed being 184.124mph.
Qualifying came Friday evening with many cars having issues getting through inspection and therefore, not making qualifying laps. Some of those drivers included hometown hero Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, returning NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth, and Michael McDowell. Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney, was the first to take to the track in round 1. Keselowski was 9th to make a lap in the Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion, and he finished round 1 in 8th place.
Round 2 of qualifying went under a red flag as Kyle Larson kissed the wall in turn 4 and went spinning. Keselowski was on track during the incident and he had to come back down pit road and cool his tires before taking to the track again. Keselowski ended up moving on to round 3, placing 9th in round 2. Keselowski finished qualifying to start the race in P5. Kevin Harvick snagged the pole, while teammates Blaney and Logano would start P2 and P9.
On race day, NASCAR announced there would be a competition caution at lap 30 because of heavy rain that moved through the area earlier in the day and completely washed the track of any rubber laid down from the Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night.
As drivers strapped in their cars, the command was given and engines were fired. When the green flag dropped, Harvick shot ahead for the lead and Keselowski gained a position to finish lap 1 in P4. Over the next few laps, drivers from P11 on back were jockeying for position, going 3-wide in some spots, while the top 10 were single file.
By lap 20, Harvick still had the lead and Keselowski continued to maintain P4 after some quick position swapping with Aric Almirola.
Keselowski told his team he was fighting the handling, and that he was tight off at start of the run, then loose in and off. When pit road opened during the competition caution, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and minor adjustments. Keselowski was 4th off pit road, and thanks to a tire violation in William Byron’s pit stall, he would restart P3 on lap 36.
Keselowski would push Blaney to, and through, the restart zone, allowing Blaney to get a good run for the lead. Harvick would settle into P2 and Keselowski into P3.
On lap 49, Keselowski’s spotter, Joey Meier informed his driver and team that the No. 2 car was posting faster lap times than the cars ahead of him.
Lap 65 allowed listeners to hear Keselowski reporting that “the car [was] pushing the nose on exit, but it [was] still free in the turn.”
With 5 to go in the stage, Darrell Wallace, Jr. had a right rear tire go down, but made it to pit road without bringing out the caution.
Blaney was the winner of stage 1, and Keselowski came in P3 earning 8 points.
Leading up to pit road opening during the end-of-stage caution, Keselowski told his crew, “We’re not bad...Just got up to the 4 [Harvick] and picked up a wicked push.” He stopped for 4 tires and fuel, but opted for no adjustments. Keselowski was 3rd off pit road, neither gaining nor losing a spot.
Keselowski would start Stage 2 in P3 on lap 89 as the track's lights came on. Harvick got the run off Blaney on the restart and Keselowski jumped ahead for P2.
Behind the battle for the lead, the battle for P5 took Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Larson 3-wide.
Blaney gained on Keselowski for P2 on lap 90, followed by Logano claiming P3 from his teammate on lap 91. One lap later, Larson jumped ahead to bump Keselowski to P5.
FOX Pit Reporter Jamie Little came on the broadcast to say that while Keselowski didn’t make any adjustments on his last stop, during the first lap of stage 2, he was yelling that the car wouldn’t turn, saying, “It is so tight!”
Lap 102 (22/80 in Stage 2) brought some incredible passing between Logano and Larson. In the end, Larson won out earning P3 as they came upon a lapped car.
Lap 105 brought Keselowski to his pit box thinking he had a loose wheel. He did indeed have a loose left, rear wheel, and when he took back to the track in P24, he was a lap down, chasing Jimmie Johnson for the lucky dog position.
Fourteen laps later, Keselowski had to make another green flag stop as he had another loose wheel. As Keselowski stopped for his wheel issues, teams began their green flag pit stops to split stage 2 in half.
Larson snagged the lead on lap 132 after all cars on the lead lap made their green flag stops. When all was said and done, Keselowski managed to only be 1 lap down in P25.
As stage 2 closed out, Larson pulled out the stage win. Keselowski finished 2 laps down in P24.
When pit road opened, the crew for the No. 2 car took some extra time to work out the loose wheel issues. He took 2 tires, fuel, and minor adjustments. Keselowski would restart the final stage in P28, 2 laps down, on lap 168.
Throughout the opening laps of the final stage, Keselowski was working hard to make up any little bit of ground that he could.
With 80 to go, Keselowski was reporting that his No. 2 car was, “Loose in, tight on throttle.” He had moved up to P24 but was still 2 laps down.
Green flag pit stops for the leaders started with 55 laps to go. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment. After pit stops cycled around, Keselowski was scored in P26, 2 laps down, with 48 laps to go.
With 31 to go, the caution came out as Daniel Suarez, who was 2 laps down, got loose, and Alex Bowman sideswiped him.
Keselowski took the wave around to gain a lap and restart only 1 lap down. The green came out with 25 laps to go, and Keselowski would restart in P23.
Larson and Harvick would lead the field to green, with Blaney and Logano making up row 2. Blaney gave Larson a good push into the restart zone, but Blaney got loose and fell to P6 while Larson and Harvick were beating and banging down the front stretch.
With 20 to go, Larson and Blaney, who seemed to continually find each other on track, and pit road, throughout this race, made contact, causing the left rear of Larson to go down, and cut down Blaney’s right front tire, putting Blaney into the wall. The caution came out and pit road opened.
Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment. Keselowski would restart P18, and be the first car 1 lap down with 15 to go.
On the restart, Martin Truex, Jr., Logano, and Erik Jones took the battle for first place 3-wide, with Truex winning the battle.
Before cars could finish out the first lap of the restart, there was a huge wreck on the frontstretch. As Byron, Bowyer, Ryan Newman, and Harvick went 4-wide for position, Byron got loose and slammed into Bowyer. Byron slid up and went nose first into the outside wall, flying on top of Newman, collecting Bowyer, Kenseth, Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon, and Jamie McMurray on his way down to the inside wall. Those drivers heavily involved, climbed out of their cars, walked away, and were later released from the infield care center.
Keselowski managed to snake by the crash hitting only flying debris.
The red flag came out as track officials worked to clean up the carnage. While waiting to resume the race, Keselowski was talking with his crew chief, Paul Wolfe to work out their plan of attack once they could pit. The red flag was lifted, and pit road opened. Keselowski stopped to add tape to the grill for the 9 lap heat race.
Keselowski restarted P14, on the lead lap, with Truex and Logano leading the field to green.
As cars went 3-wide behind him, Truex shot ahead for the lead. Coming up alongside the pack was Harvick. Harvick easily moved from P6 to P2 within one lap.
As the final laps ticked down, the focus was not on the leaders, but Larson’s rear window. Viewers could see it was deeply concave. This had been an issue with Bowyer’s car last week and Harvick earlier in the season. Larson said in a post-race interview that it was “definitely” from the contact with Blaney. Sunday morning, NASCAR fans heard that his car was taken to R & D for further inspection.
With 5 to go, Truex had a 1 second lead over Harvick, but Harvick was a man on a mission. Within 2 laps, Harvick was right on the bumper of the No. 78 of Truex. Harvick went to the top with 1 to go to easily pass Truex. It was a nose to bumper battle for the lead throughout the last lap, but Harvick took the checkered flag for the second week in a row, and the fifth time this season.
After falling 2 laps down, Keselowski and this No. 2 crew fought back to finish on the lead lap in P14. Penske teammates Logano and Blaney finished P3 and P37, respectively.
Teams head to Charlotte to race at home for a few weeks. Upcoming races include the All-Star Race this weekend, and the Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day weekend.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently in 7th place with 396 points (107 points behind the leader, Kyle Busch). He has 4 Playoff Points.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
May 6, 2018
Dover International Speedway
1 mile oval, Concrete
400 miles, 400 laps
Teams from the top three series of NASCAR headed to Dover International Speedway this weekend to see who could tackle the Monster Mile. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Brad Keselowski has had one win over the years at Dover, not nearly as many compared to other drivers like Jimmie Johnson with 11 wins, but twice he has also been the fastest qualifier. Fans of the Blue Deuce entered the weekend wondering if this would be the weekend he could notch his first win of the 2018 season.
Mother Nature was also looking to once again rear her head on NASCAR events. Friday morning, NASCAR announced that all Saturday on-track activity, which included 2 Cup practices, as well as the Xfinity Series qualifying session and race, would be moved up an hour in an attempt to beat rain moving into the area.
Opening practice for the Cup series brought Keselowski in 5th place, with his fastest lap speed clocking in at 159.208mph. Paul Menard was fastest with a speed of 159.830mph.
Qualifying was held mid-Friday afternoon under gorgeous, 80 degree weather conditions - very different from expected race conditions. Drivers pulled to the end of pit road and waited, as no one wanted to take to the hot, slick track. The first two drivers to attempt laps were Cody Ware and Derrike Cope, and they proved it was very slick - going sideways coming out of turns. Keselowski advanced through all three rounds of qualifying to start Sunday’s race in 8th place. Keselowski’s Penske teammates, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano, would line up in 14th and 18th respectively. Kyle Larson snagged the pole to start next to Kevin Harvick.
During Saturday morning’s practice session, Keselowski had the best 10-lap average, finishing in 2nd place. In the final practice session of the weekend, Keselowski came in 11th, with a fast lap speed of 156.420mph.
Around noon Sunday, NASCAR announced two important bits of information. First, in an attempt to finish the Cup Series race before rain moved in (and because of the lack of lights at the track), the race would be moved up 8 minutes, to 2pm. Also, three drivers would be starting from the rear. Pole sitter, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports driver, Alex Bowman, would move back for failing inspection 3 times, and Austin Dillon would follow suit for a non-compliant splitter. Larson and Bowman also had their car chiefs ejected. Due to this, Keselowski would bump up one spot to start in 7th.
The green flag dropped and as the field came around to end lap 1, Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. were side by side battling for the lead. While Harvick ended up winning the battle, Keselowski gained a position to finish lap 1 in P6.
The end of lap 3 brought out the first caution as Darrell Wallace, Jr. got into the back of Michael McDowell, who got loose and went spinning.
The green flag came back out on lap 8 and Harvick rocketed ahead. Keselowski gained a position over Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. for P5.
Around lap 17, viewers could overhear Kyle Busch complaining of engine issues. He didn’t like the way his engine sounded and felt the vibrations were getting worse.
Lap 21 brought out the second caution as Corey LaJoie blew an engine on the back stretch, which sent smoke billowing from his car.
Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and an air pressure adjustment. He was 3rd off pit road, gaining 2 positions to restart in P6. Bowman and Larson opted not to stop and would lead the field to green on lap 25.
Keselowski immediately gained a position as drivers behind him, including teammate Blaney, went 3-wide to battle for position.
Bowman maintained the lead over the next 14 laps as Keselowski attempted to to battle Larson for position. Larson got loose on lap 39 and that almost opened the door for Keselowski to take P2, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Keselowski managed to take P2 from Larson on lap 43, just squeezing through on the high line.
As the laps in stage 1 ticked town, Keselowski was closing in on Bowman. He stole the lead on lap 48. Within 8 laps, Keselowski had a 1 second lead over Truex.
Keselowski maintained the lead, but with 39 to go, Truex was right on his bumper. Keselowski was told to save a little bit of fuel [due to the long green flag run], but not to give up speed to do it.
Ten laps later, Truex was door to door with Keselowski trying hard to take the lead, but lapped traffic allowed Keselowski to get a small run. Over the next two laps, these two drivers were battling hard, as if it were the end of the race.
With 24 to go, Truex took to pit road as he had a tire go down, and green flag stops started for a handful of teams, as many thought they would not have the fuel to make it to the end of the stage.
With Truex stopping, Keselowski had a 1 second lead over Harvick in P2. Over the radio, we heard that fuel might be an issue for the #2 team, so Keselowski slowed way down, allowing Harvick to take the lead with 13 to go. Behind him in P3, Kyle Busch was in fuel saving mode as well, cutting off the engine in the corners. It was very interesting to see fuel mileage coming into play this early in the race.
Keselowski finished stage 1 in 3rd place, snagging 7 stage points.
As pit road opened, Keselowski told his team he was “free in and tight at the ⅔ mark of the corner.” He snagged 4 tires, fuel, and minor adjustments - gaining a position to start stage 2 in P2 on lap 128.
Harvick and Keselowski led the field to green with Harvick shooting out of the restart zone like a rocket. On lap 150, Harvick had a 2 second lead on Keselowski, and the #18 of Busch was closing in on Keselowski’s bumper.
Lap 154 brought out the next caution as Cope got loose and bounced off the outside wall, slid down and had a hard hit into the inside wall.
When pit road opened, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment, stating his car was, “Woah, bad!” He won the race off pit road to gain a position and restart the race in P1 next to Harvick on lap 158.
Keselowski didn’t get a good launch on the restart, and Harvick tried to take advantage of that, but he couldn’t capitalize, and Keselowski shot ahead for the lead.
Over the next dozen laps, Keselowski continued to maintain the lead. At this point in the race, Keselowski had led 84 of 176 laps - the most ever for him at Dover.
Lap 180 brought Harvick to the rear bumper of Keselowski as the two cars battled for the lead.
With 56 to go in stage 2, Harvick was putting pressure on Keselowski. Keselowski’s spotter, Joey Meier, was overheard informing Keselowski of Harvick’s moves, saying, “He tries to get around you in the center of the corner.”
Harvick continued to try multiple lines and strategies, and Keselowski continued to hold him off, but with 40 to go in stage 2, Harvick found an opening and snagged the lead.
As the stage wound down, Harvick had a nearly 3 second lead over Keselowski.
With 6 laps to go, Harvick was battling lapped traffic, and Keselowski was starting to cut into the lead, but since he was back nearly 4 seconds, it was not doing much good. At the end of stage 2, Keselowski came in P2, snagging 8 more stage points.
Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel. He said the car was “swinging”, that it would be good, and then get bad.
Jeff Gordon radioed Keselowski from the FOX booth after stage 2 since they already spoke with Harvick. Gordon said, “It’s been a great battle between you and Harvick out there. Do you have anything for the #4?” Keselowski said, “It depends. My pit crew is really strong, and we’ve got good stability.” He mentioned they were trying to figure out how to hold him, but he was really happy with things so far.
Keselowski would start stage 3 in P2 on lap 249 (with 151 laps to go).
FOX Analyst, Larry McReynolds, said on lap 250, that Harvick, Keselowski and Clint Bowyer had each run their fastest laps of the race, and that lap of Harvick’s was faster than the pole winning lap.
On lap 253, the caution flag came out for Ware as he got loose and hit the outside wall, resulting in major rear-end damage.
Pit road opened and interestingly, only 4 drivers out of 15 on the lead lap opted to stop for fresh tires. Keselowski stayed out to keep track position.
Harvick and Keselowski would once again lead the field to green with 141 laps to go. Harvick got another good run with Keselowski right on his bumper.
With 130 to go, the #18 of Kyle Busch went up in smoke, yelling over the radio, “Drive shaft, drive shaft, drive shaft is gone!”, eventually bringing out the caution for fluid on the track. This incident ended the day for the #18.
Pit road opened and Keselowski took to his stall for 2 tires and won the race off pit road. He informed his team that there was, “A lot of oil in turn 1” from the #18. There were extra laps added under caution to allow track officials the chance to completely clean the oil off the track.
Stenhouse and Jamie McMurray would lead the field to green, with Keselowski in P3, with 119 laps to go.
Stenhouse shot ahead for the lead while Keselowski got shuffled back to P6. Keselowski had to jump to the outside line and and was able to gain a position, but lost it 5 laps later when Harvick blew past him.
With 106 to go, Clint Bowyer was battling Stenhouse for the lead, and 3 laps later, he was able to take the lead. Keselowski was maintaining P6, about 3 seconds behind the leader.
McReynolds noted that his “One to Watch” was Keselowski, thanks to his incredible pit crew. He noted that all teams would have to stop at least once more, so the “2 Crew” would have another chance to shine.
With 85 to go, Keselowski passed Stenhouse for P5, and as soon as that happened, the caution came out for rain.
NASCAR closed pit road while drivers continued to take pace laps, awaiting the next call. With 80 to go, cars came down pit road under the red flag so the Air Titans could start drying the track, and keep the heat in the track.
As the cars sat on pit road under covers, it was clear the Ford’s had the speed, with 7 of the top 10 being Fords. The top 10 was rounded out with 2 Toyotas and 1 Chevy.
FOX Pit Reporter, Jamie Little, caught up with Keselowski under the red flag and asked, “Have you done a good job keeping up with changing track conditions?” Keselowski replied, “I feel like our last run or two has been our best….I just want to get four tires and get back to the front and race them hard….We lost some track position on that restart, but I feel if we get it back we have a shot at the 14 and the 4." Little noted his pit crew had been “lights out, all day.” Keselowski agreed and noted that Dover had one of the most challenging pit roads on the circuit.
After 41 minutes, NASCAR lifted the red flag and drivers fired their engines to finish out the Drive for Autism 400.
Drivers took a pace lap and then pit road opened with 79 laps to go. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel. Unfortunately, Keselowski had a rough stop as his crew had a tough time getting a left tire off and a new one on, causing him to restart P8.
Bowyer and Harvick would lead the field to green with 75 laps to go. Harvick got a little loose on the restart and Bowyer took the lead. Keselowski immediately gained a position to move up to P7.
With 64 to go, Bowyer got loose off turn 2 and Harvick was able to take the lead. Keselowski maintained P7 throughout this run.
With 54 to go, Keselowski passed Blaney for P6. Outside of the top 3, Keselowski was dubbed the fastest car on the track.
Twenty-five laps later, Harvick had a dominating 5 second lead over Bowyer, with Daniel Suarez in P3, while Keselowski maintained P6, but remained one of the fastest cars on the track.
As the checkered flag came out, Harvick took his fourth win of the season, and Keselowski finished in P6.
Penske teammates, Blaney and Logano, finished in P8 and P13.
While it was a frustrating end to the weekend without a win for Keselowski and the “2 Crew”, it was definitely positive in the points department. Team Penske will head back to North Carolina, regroup, and then head to Kansas for a night race next weekend.
Post-race, Keselowski was quoted saying, “We led some laps which was good. We kind of fell apart on the last two runs. We’ll just keep working on it.”
POINTS WATCH: After Dover, Keselowski has 365 points (101 behind the leader, Kyle Busch), with 4 Playoff Points.
Follow and Chat with me here: @TerraLJ
April 29, 2018
2.66 mile tri-oval, Asphalt
500 miles, 188 laps
NASCAR headed to Alabama this week for restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway and the Geico 500. All eyes were on 5-time Talladega winner, Brad Keselowski. Keselowski would be pulling double duty in a sense as he not only piloted the #2 Snap-On Ford Fusion for Team Penske, but he would also be participating in the Driver’s Only broadcast for the Xfinity race on Saturday afternoon. Team Penske would be well represented with Keselowski in the Hollywood Hotel, Joey Logano as a race analyst, and Ryan Blaney as a pit reporter.
There were two practices on Friday afternoon. The early practice had Keselowski finishing in 23rd with a top speed of 192.370mph. The final practice was temporarily red-flagged as Jamie McMurray cut a tire and went barrel rolling down the back straightaway collecting Ryan Newman, Ty Dillon, and Daniel Suarez, sending each to a backup car. Keselowski finished final practice in 16th with a top speed of 201.91mph.
Late Friday afternoon, after McMurray’s crash in the happy hour practice and both practice sessions bringing in very high speeds, NASCAR released a statement with a rules update. Competition officials stated that the size of the [holes on the] engine restrictor plates would be reduced from 7/8 of an inch to 55/64th of an inch in an effort to slow the cars.
Qualifying took place early Saturday afternoon over two rounds of qualifying with all cars in the first round running to set positions 13-40, and then the fastest 12 cars running for the pole in the 2nd round. Cars would qualify in inverse order of practice speeds, taking to the track for individual laps.
As Aric Almirola was finishing his qualifying lap in round 1, he had a tire go down and spun out as Kevin Harvick was taking to the track. The caution came out so NASCAR officials could clean the track. Once the green flag came out, officials allowed Harvick’s car to cool a bit before he attempted to finish his qualifying lap.
After a long, wonky 1st round, Keselowski made his way into the 2nd round of qualifying. Once qualifying wrapped up, Keselowski found himself starting in 10th, while Penske teammates, Logano and Blaney, would roll off 9th and 23rd respectively.
During pre-race festivities, Keselowski’s spotter, Joey Meier, navigated FOX commentator Michael Waltrip through the Talladega Pit Road Grid Walk in hilarious fashion, helping him find specific drivers to interview. FOX broadcasters Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Chris Myers caught up with Keselowski and asked, “You’re the favorite here at Talladega. Do you feel comfortable?” Keselowski laughed and said “No!” They talked about how the cars are very unstable, and with different aerodynamic and rules packages, drivers have a lot to ‘unlearn’ and, Keselowski noted, “Sometimes you unlearn by wrecking.” Keselowski also commented that the stages made the biggest difference at plate tracks as it was getting drivers up front fighting for position.
Gus Malzahn, head football coach of Auburn University, gave the command to fire engines (Roll Tide!), and then Harvick and Kurt Busch would lead the field to green on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. Fans of the ‘Blue Deuce’ were ready to see if he could ‘tame Talladega’ for a sixth time.
As the flag dropped, Harvick jumped to the lead with Kurt Busch right on his tail, and Harvick held the lead for the first lap. Keselowski fluctuated between P10-P12 over the next few laps.
Laps 4 through 6 brought a bit more shuffling for Keselowski, moving around from P8-P10, while Darrell Waltrip noted that speeds were hitting 202mph in the draft.
Lap 13 brought green flag stops for the leaders. Keselowski stopped for fuel only and came off pit road in P26. Keselowski started working his way through the field, gaining 3 positions within 4 laps, as he and those that had already pitted awaited the leaders taking their turns on pit road. Throughout this run, Keselowski was leading a pack that included Penske teammates Logano, Blaney, and Paul Menard, who has a technical alliance between Wood Brothers Racing and Team Penske.
Keselowski was noting that his water temperature was rising and TV viewers could see a piece of debris on the nose of his car. By lap 24, Keselowski was in P17 and Alex Bowman was the new leader.
On lap 25, it was worth noting that the first 16 cars had not pitted yet and Keselowski was the first car that had already pitted, and he was currently in P17.
With 21 laps to go in Stage 1, the line that Keselowski was leading caught up with Kurt Busch and the debris was able to fly off.
With 16 laps to go, Darrell Wallace, Jr. was the new leader as Bowman made a move that didn’t work out for him.
Four laps later, the leaders were starting to pit, and as the drivers cycled around, Keselowski was the new leader, followed by Logano.
The final lap of stage 1 brought some major moves behind Keselowski by drivers attempting to gain stage points, and Keselowski pulled out a stage win, collecting 10 points along with earning a playoff point.
Pits opened on lap 59 and Keselowski stopped for fuel and right side tires only, winning the race off pit road.
Darrell Waltrip called up Keselowski after he was done on pit road to congratulate him on the stage win. Waltrip said, “You seemed concerned [pre-race] about the handling of the cars. What have you figured out?” Keselowski shared that you just had to stay low and that there wasn’t much speed in the middle and high lanes. He told Waltrip, “You just have to be really disciplined.”
Keselowski would restart stage 2 in P1 next to teammate Logano with Menard in P3 on lap 62. Keselowski got a good run for the lead with William Byron right on his tail. Before the end of the stage 2 opening lap, Byron had taken the lead from Keselowski.
Keselowski got shuffled back to P3, but Keselowski took back the lead on lap 64 (lap 2 of stage 2).
In the opening laps of stage 2, most cars were 3 wide shuffling for position.
Lap 12 brought the leaders to pit road. Keselowski lead them down and short-pitted for fuel, however he got a penalty for speeding on pit road and would have to take a pass-through lap.
After a handful of drivers stopped, and a few served their own pass-through penalties, there was a new leader in Matt DiBenedetto.
The first caution for incident came out on lap 17 of stage 2 as Erik Jones got loose on the exit of turn 2 and slid into McMurray, ultimately collecting Trevor Bayne, Martin Truex, Jr., and Kyle Larson. The day would be over for Bayne, Jones, and Larson.
As pit road opened, DiBenedetto pitted, handing the lead over to Logano, who would lead the field to green next to Menard. Keselowski would restart in P20 on lap 23 of stage 2.
Over the next few laps, Keselowski gained a few spots to be scored in P15 on lap 27.
Lap 29 of stage 2 had Keselowski running the outside lane behind Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman. Keselowski was in P12 with 22 to go in stage 2.
Ten laps later, Denny Hamlin took the lead, and behind him, Keselowski almost lost control of his car but managed an excellent save.
With 6 to go, Menard was challenging Hamlin for the lead. And 2 laps later, Menard charged ahead with Logano directly behind him. Keselowski was in P13.
With 3 to go, it was clear Keselowski needed new tires, but crew chief, Paul Wolfe said, “We just need to finish it [the stage] out.”
Menard ended up winning his first stage ever and Keselowski would finish stage 2 in P17.
Pit road opened and all cars came down. Keselowski pitted and he would restart P11.
Byron and Blaney would lead the field to green to restart stage 3. Keselowski quickly jumped to P8 on lap 116.
Kurt Busch took the lead from Byron with 64 laps to go, and two laps later, Keselowski got stuck in the middle lane and fell to P16.
The caution came out for debris on the track with 60 laps to go. Many cars took to pit road, Keselowski stopped and opted for right side tires, gaining 12 spots.
With 55 to go, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the new leader and would line up next to Hamlin, while Keselowski would restart P8.
The intensity was picking up as the laps ticked by. There were multiple battles for position, and Suarez, Hamlin and Stenhouse went 3-wide for the lead, with Hamlin winning out. Keselowski moved up to P5 with his teammates Blaney and Logano in P3 and P4.
With 49 to go, Keselowski jumped to P2 immediately behind Logano. The next lap brought Keselowski to the lead, but he had to battle Logano to keep it while Blaney was right on his bumper.
Three laps later, Logano took back the lead and Suarez was trying to get into position to take it from him. Keselowski was shuffled back to P3.
With 44 to go, the leaders took to pit road for green flag pit stops. Keselowski stopped for a splash of fuel and came out in P5.
With 42 to go, Logano was the new leader, and Keselowski was right on his bumper in P2.
Ten laps later, Keselowski was overheard asking if he was ok on fuel. He heard, “Yes, you’re good for a green-white-checkered.”
With 34 to go, the caution came out for Timmy Hill as his engine blew up. Keselowski was in P7 at the time.
Pit road opened and the leaders chose to stay out. Logano was overheard talking about a vibration, but didn’t want to give up his track position so he stayed out.
Logano would keep P1 and lead the field to green next to Aric Almirola, with Keselowski in P6, with 29 laps to go.
Three laps later, the top five were single file, but behind the leaders, drivers were up to four wide battling for position, while Logano maintained the lead. Keselowski had lost his momentum and fell to P22.
Seven laps later, with 22 to go, the caution came out as Johnson got loose and tagged Byron triggering the melee. This incident took out Clint Bowyer, Keselowski, Bowman, Wallace, Suarez, Menard, Michael McDowell, Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Cole Whitt, and Kasey Kahne.
Keselowski had significant damage and his day would end, along with many others that were involved in the incident. FOX reporter, Jamie Little, caught up with Keselowski after he was released from the infield care center and Keselowski said, “There was just a wreck in front of me and I couldn’t make any sense really of what happened and we just got into it.”
Logano would restart P1 alongside Harvick with 17 to go. Logano jumped ahead to maintain the lead as the laps ticked down. When the white flag came out, there was a great deal of shuffling behind Logano, but he held his spot to pull out a win for Team Penske.
Blaney would finish 18th and Keselowski finished 33rd.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently 6th with 317 points (130 behind leader Kyle Busch) with 4 playoff points.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
April 21st, 2018
.75 mile D-shaped, Asphalt
300 miles, 400 laps
It was a chilly morning for opening practice at Richmond Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400. Brad Keselowski wrapped up the first practice in 10th, with Chase Elliott in first, and Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney finished in 5th and 11th.
Thirty minutes later, the second and final practice kicked off. Keselowski finished in 15th with Kyle Larson winning the Happy Hour practice. Cars headed to inspection and then on to qualifying which happened at 5:30, Friday evening.
The track opened for qualifying and many fans were likely wondering if it would be a repeat of Bristol qualifying where all drivers waited until the last minutes of round 1 to take to the track. With 7 minutes remaining, only three drivers had taken qualifying laps, but a minute later the track was getting very busy. Keselowski finished qualifying in 28th, not moving on to round 2.
Martin Truex, Jr. and Elliott earned the front row spots, while Penske teammates Logano and Blaney would roll off 3rd and 13th respectively.
Saturday night brought short track racing under the lights. After a beautiful national anthem and a rousing command, engines were fired and cars took to the track for a few pace laps. As the green flag dropped, Truex shot out like a rocket and Logano slid up into the wall but avoided a caution.
By lap 4, Keselowski had fallen to P30 as drivers battled for position in the opening laps. Over the next handful of laps, Keselowski managed to make up a few spots, hitting P26 by lap 13. Within 10 more laps, he had worked his way up to P23. Throughout all this, Truex continued a dominating lead over Logano.
On lap 42, Keselowski hit the top 20, along with Logano taking the lead from Truex.
Fox reporter Regan Smith came on the broadcast to update and said earlier in the day Keselowski thought he had a good long run race car, but that hadn’t materialized yet. He also noted the radio of the #2 car was quiet.
Lap 53 had Keselowski in P15, as race leader, Logano, started to battle lapped traffic.
Lap 89, Keselowski had worked his way up to P12. Logano went on to win stage 1 in dominating fashion, while Keselowski finished the stage P12.
As pit road opened, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and adjustments, gaining 2 spots to restart stage 2 in P9. It was noted that he was “loose in, tight in the middle.”
Logano led the field to green on lap 112, but within a lap, Kurt Busch took the lead away from Keselowski’s teammate to become the third different leader of the race. Meanwhile, Keselowski had fallen to P10.
Throughout the next 40 laps, Keselowski hovered right below the top ten line, battling teammate, Blaney, for position.
With about 43 laps to go in stage 2, in the middle of a long green flag run, green flag pit stops started for many teams who were trying out a different strategy.
With 31 to go in stage 2, Clint Bowyer took the lead from Kurt Busch, and Keselowski broke into the top 10, and then P9 a few laps later.
With 3 to go in the stage, Keselowski was battling Truex for P8, and a few stage points. Keselowski accomplished this to snag 3 stage points, while teammate Logano pulled off another stage win.
Keselowski stopped once pit road opened for 4 tires and fuel, and gained a position to restart P7, while Logano and Kurt Busch led the field to green for the start of stage 3.
Throughout the first lap of the final stage, Keselowski gained a position and was battling Truex to maintain P6, which Keselowski ended up losing. He then battled Aric Almirola to take back P6 on lap 232.
Up until this point, the race had been caution free and the broadcast team started to verbalize how odd it was to be caution free for this long, especially at a short-track.
On lap 243, Kevin Harvick took P6 from Keselowski. FOX announcer, Mike Joy, noted it was a “calculated risk” for Keselowski as he kept catching the car ahead of him, then letting the next car by.
Around 134 to go, Keselowski took P6 from his teammate, Logano. Three laps later, many drivers took to pit road for green flag pit stops in an attempt to divide this stage and work a different strategy than other drivers. Keselowski came in with the leaders for 4 tires and fuel, and as the pit stops cycled through, he was scored in P7.
With 89 to go, Keselowski finally moved into the top 5.
With 84 to go, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. hit the wall in turn 1 and ended up with minor damage, but continued on without a caution.
With 72 to go, more drivers took to pit road. Keselowski stopped before the leaders did for 4 tires and fuel, also stating that he needed more “short run speed”, so his team gave an air pressure adjustment as well. As drivers cycled around, Keselowski was back in P5.
With 47 to go, we had our first caution for an incident of the night. Blaney was passing Stenhouse who had much fresher tires, and Blaney got loose, spinning out. The incident also collected Cole Whitt. Somehow, Keselowski just squeaked by, avoiding spinning cars and the inside wall, to stay in P5.
Pit road opened and there were many takers. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, but lost a position on the race off pit road.
Truex and Harvick would lead the field to green with 39 to go, and Keselowski would restart P6.
The tension was mounting as the laps ticked down.
With 36 to go, Keselowski went 3 wide with William Byron and Elliott for position, and they were each using their bumpers trying to make their way to the front.
Two laps later, Jamie McMurray got into the wall after minor contact with Kurt Busch, and Ryan Newman had a major tire rub. With 33 to go, the caution came out again.
There was a little “family feud” as teammates Larson and McMurray were seen bumping each other. While radio communication did not give us any indication as to why, Mike Joy noted they were both racing to be in the free pass position, so this might have been why there was a little aggression.
Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, gaining 3 spots during that stop.
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin would lead the field to green with 22 to go, while Keselowski would restart in P5.
Within a lap, Keselowski gained a position, but Kyle Busch took off like a rocket. Five laps later, Harvick took P4 from Keselowski, who then had a mirror full of Elliott.
With 12 to go, another caution came out as David Ragan lost his left rear tire and slammed into the wall.
Pit road opened and all of the leaders took to their stalls. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and a splash of fuel. He lost a position to restart P6.
Kyle Busch and Hamlin would once again lead the field to green with 6 to go. Kyle Busch again took off, and behind him, it was mass chaos as Elliott, Harvick, Logano, Bowyer, Keselowski, and Truex were all battling for position.
With 5 to go, Stenhouse was into the wall in turn 3 as the race went under caution again.
This caution sent the race into overtime. Kyle Busch and Hamlin would lead the field to green with Keselowski in P7. The restart went 4 wide throughout the field. Kyle Busch took the white flag and a lap later, he took the checkered flag for his 3rd win in a row.
Keselowski finished P8, while Penske teammates Logano finished P4, and Blaney came in P22.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently in 5th with 303 points (112 behind the leader, Kyle Busch), and 3 Playoff Points.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
April 15/16, 2018
Bristol Motor Speedway
½ mile Oval, Concrete
266.5 miles, 500 laps
The first practice of the weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway started a little rough for Kevin Harvick and AJ Allmendinger. Harvick had to go to a backup car after contact with the wall, while Allmendinger also had some minor contact in a separate incident, but he opted to fix the car instead of heading to a backup. Brad Keselowski had a different issue at the start of Friday’s practice. He thought practice started at 12:30 when it really started at 12, but he made it out in time to run 11 laps, and finish practice in 8th.
Qualifying came late Friday afternoon with an air temperature of 80 degrees, and track temperature of 105 degrees. It also came with a weird start - only Gray Gaulding took to the track in the first seven minutes of qualifying. No one wanted to go out and make laps on the PJ1/traction compound that had been applied to the track and had not warmed up yet.
With about 3.5 minutes left in round 1, the track was packed with cars as everyone was finally making their laps. Keselowski finished round 1 in P11.
Round 2 started much the same way as round 1 with drivers just hanging out, waiting to see what the track was like. With 5 minutes to go, Michael McDowell was the first to take to the track for round 2. But it was still another 2 minutes before anyone else went out - that means 24 drivers in 3 minutes. Keselowski fought through the intense craziness on the track to come in 4th.
Round 3 was more of the same. Fans and drivers sat and watched the clock tick down, awaiting the pandemonium. When the clock read 2:00 remaining, Kurt Busch took to the track, with Ryan Blaney following, to start the final round to race for the pole. The Busch brothers would start 1 and 2 with Kyle Busch on the pole. Keselowski would snag 3rd, Blaney 5th, and Joey Logano 10th.
Post-qualifying, Matt Yocum caught up with Keselowski and asked, “With 2 wins of The Captain’s (Roger Penske) 12 - what’s the biggest challenge to this track?” Keselowski brought up the fact that the track “is always changing...the lanes move throughout the race….and being able to predict that, not only as a driver, but feedback with the team is a challenge. I hope we’re up for the task come Sunday.”
Saturday brought two practices. First, the chilly, early practice had Keselowski sitting P28, and the later morning, Happy Hour practice, Keselowski finished up P20.
Between Saturday practices, NASCAR announced they would move the race up an hour to try and beat the rain that was predicted to move into the area on Sunday afternoon.
In final practice, Kurt Busch wrecked and had to go to a backup car, so Keselowski ended up moving up a position to help Kyle Busch lead the field to green.
Sunday morning, the rain moved in earlier than hoped, but the track was dried in time to start the race around 1:30pm, and NASCAR announced there would be a competition caution at lap 45.
The green flag dropped and before the first lap was over, Kyle Busch had a 6-car car length on P2, and Keselowski had fallen to P5.
Lap 4 brought the first caution as Michael McDowell got loose into Daniel Suarez, also collecting Chase Elliott, Martin Truex, Jr., Aric Almirola, David Ragan, and DJ Kennington.
On the restart, Keselowski restarted P6 and fell to P8 within a lap. The #18 of Busch lead the restart lap, but Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney, took the lead from him quickly.
Lap 18 brought out the second caution when AJ Allmendinger got loose and spun out.
The restart was on lap 22 and Blaney took off with Logano on his tail. Keselowski was in P9, but had moved up to P6 within 8 laps.
Lap 35 had TV viewers starting to see raindrops on the camera, and NASCAR announced the competition caution would be moved to lap 50 due to the 2 earlier cautions.
By Lap 42, Keselowski had moved up to P4.
Lap 47 brought out the next caution as Reed Sorenson got into the wall, and the rain started to fall. At the same time, we heard Jimmie Johnson talking with his crew, saying that he thought he had a flat tire.
The race went under the first red flag of the weekend because of the rain that had been falling, and the Air Titans immediately came out to dry the track.
FS1’s Jamie Little caught up with Keselowski during the red flag and said that it “seemed like the 12 was the best of Penske cars….how do you feel like the cars are?” Keselowski responded, “We’re set up for these conditions, it’s slick and our cars seem to be set up for that.”
After 25 minutes, the red-flag was lifted and NASCAR announced this caution would be the competition caution. As soon as the yellow dropped, crews went to work fixing cars with crash damage.
Pits opened before the green flag and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and no adjustments, gaining a position.
At the restart on lap 60, Blaney and Kyle Larson would lead the field to green, with Keselowski in P3.
Lap 61 brought another caution, as Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Erik Jones got together in Turn 3.
Lap 67 would bring out the restart with Blaney and Logano leading, and Keselowski in P6.
Within a couple of laps, Team Penske was well represented as Keselowski moved up to P4, and Blaney, Logano, and Paul Menard were top 3.
Around lap 95, Keselowski jumped to P2, while Blaney still had a nearly 3 second lead.
As the laps ticked by, Keselowski slowly closed in on Blaney, cutting the lead to a second and a half, as Blaney was battling lap traffic.
With 7 to go, the caution came out as Chris Buescher got loose and collected race leader, Blaney, along with Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, and Harrison Rhodes.
The red flag came out again as there was a lot of clean-up on track that needed to happen.
After 6 minutes, the yellow came back out and most cars took to pit road. Keselowski, the new race leader, stayed out to attempt to win stage 1.
Leading the field to green for a 1 lap shootout was Keselowski with Clint Bowyer by his side. TV viewers could once again see raindrops on the screen.
Keselowski did indeed win Stage 1 as the yellow came out once more to end the stage.
Those cars that didn’t pit stopped under this caution. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel. Jeff Gordon attempted to contact Keselowski over the radio to chat with the stage 1 winner, but there was some technical difficulties there.
Stage 2 would begin with Larson and Jones leading the field to green. Keselowski would restart in P18 immediately making ground to P16, then P13 within a couple of green flag laps.
Chad Finchum spun out but made it to pit road without bringing out the caution.
Raindrops continued to fall and you could feel the tension mounting as fans waited to see how much of the race would be completed.
Lap 30 brought the next caution as Bayne hit the wall and spun out. Keselowski had worked his way up to P13.
Even though Keselowski just stopped, he came in for 4 tires and fuel. He said the upper groove was coming in good. He had a great stop, the fastest at 13.4 seconds, and gained 2 spots to restart P12, while Larson and Jones would again lead the field to green.
Darrell Waltrip commented that the rain had really picked up, and before the race could go back to yellow, the race was again red-flagged for more rain.
As drivers climbed back in their cars, Twitter went crazy noting that 165 laps had been completed, and the race could be official if we made it to lap 250, the end of Stage 2. NASCAR was taking advantage of a window in the rain to attempt to finish stage 2 before the next band of rain.
The green flag dropped and there would be 81 laps left in Stage 2.
Larson jumped to the lead with Menard right on his tail. Within 5 laps, Keselowski fell to P15.
While Logano and Menard fought for 2nd place, Larson took off with a 4 second lead.
With 65 to go in Stage 2, the #41 of Busch clearly had an issue. He pulled onto pit road without bringing out the caution, reporting a loose wheel, and losing a lot of time while pitting under green.
A few laps later, we could see smoke coming out from the #10 of Almirola, while Larson’s lead grew to over 5 seconds.
With 48 to go, the race was back under caution, and eventually the red flag again, for more rain, while Keselowski had worked up to P13.
FS1’s Vince Welch caught up with Keselowski since Jeff Gordon couldn’t reach him after his stage 1 win. Keselowski said, “We’ve got a great car...we got cycled to the back and just haven’t been able to get back up…. That’s just part of how it is. I feel if we get a good, long run, I can get up and challenge for the win.”
Welch went on to ask, “What makes you feel like it’s a good car?” Keselowski responded, “The car is in my hands, it reacts to what I’m doing…And that’s half the battle.”
The red flag carried over to Monday, and it was still under a rain delay at the scheduled restart time of 1pm, while the weather was off-and-on rain and sleet and near-freezing temperatures. Air Titans were working hard to get the track dried so the Food City 500 could get wrapped up and teams could turn their attention to Richmond.
Jamie Little caught up w/ Keselowski during the Monday delay. Little noted that Keselowski had one of the “best cars yesterday, short and long run speed.” She had talked with Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, and he had said, “Where we’re sitting (P14), we aren’t sure what to do once we get going.” She went on to ask Keselowski, “Do you pit right away?” Keselowski said he’d wait for his crew chief to make the call because there were so many factors in that decision. He went on to mention the uncertainty of the weather and how they might only be racing for 40-50 laps, and that would create a lot of aggressiveness. He finished with a grin and a shrug saying, “I don’t know, Jamie!”
She asked about the PJ1/Traction Compound and how different it was when it was cold. He responded, “The compound doesn’t kick in till it’s warm, which is strange because when you walk on it, it’s really tacky. But it’s not for the cars. The last few days we’ve been here, it’s been a lot warmer, the Traction Compound came in pretty quickly, but I don’t expect it’ll come in quickly [today] and the cars will be really loose to start the race...just add that into the many factors we’ll see at the restart of this race.”
Drivers were finally called back to their cars and given the command to fire engines with 46 to go in stage 2. Fans were waiting in anticipation to see if it would be a race of 46 laps or 296.
Drivers took 8 laps under yellow, and then pit road opened. But, there was more rain falling - clearly visible on the TV cameras.
Keselowski stopped for 2 left side tires and gained 11 spots to restart P3. Larson and Newman would lead the field to green, and hopefully the finish of this race.
The green flag dropped and everyone took off. Keselowski fell to P7.
Within a few laps Keselowski worked his way back to P5, and Kasey Kahne was having an issue with his car. Kahne made it to pit road without bringing out the caution.
With 18 to go in stage 2, Keselowski used Finchum to block Denny Hamlin and made a move for P4.
The aggression was definitely high as everyone was using their bumpers to make room and passes.
With 12 laps to go in this stage, Keselowski was in P2 and less than 1.5 seconds behind Larson, with Kyle Busch right behind him.
Five laps later, Keselowski took the lead from Larson, and ended up winning Stage 2.
Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustment.
Gordon was able to get Keselowski on the radio this stage win and said, “Tell us about changing conditions, strategy, and...well, everything going on down there.” Keselowski said, “The pace is really fast, we’re in the 14 second bracket...I’m sure the track will slow down, but we’re going to make the most of it.”
Stage 3 was started with Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson leading the field. Keselowski got the lead off turn 1, but on turn 4, Hamlin took the lead.
On lap 266, Hamlin went to the pits as he had a loose wheel and Keselowski took over - shooting out like a rocket.
And lap 284 brought a mirror full of the #18 for Keselowski as they started to battle lapped traffic, and right behind the #18 was Larson.
Ten laps later, Larson took the lead and Keselowski fell to a second behind. By lap 300, Keselowski had cut into that lead and was on the tail of Larson, but 12 laps later, Keselowski lost P2 to Kyle Busch.
With 176 to go, Larson made a quick lane change to avoid lapped traffic, had minor contact with Ryan Newman, spun out and managed to miss the wall and all other cars.
Under this caution, pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel.
Keselowski would restart P2, and amazingly, Larson would restart P3. Keselowski restarted on the inside lane and did not get going, causing him to fall back to P3.
As Keselowski was bumping Johnson’s bumper to attempt to take P2, the sun started to come out. What a wild weather weekend!
With 157 to go, Keselowski was able to take P2, and he started to work on cutting into the lead that Kyle Busch had.
Ten laps later, the caution was out again as the #55 of Sorenson slammed the wall in Turn 3.
Pit road opened and Keselowski opted for 4 tires and fuels. He said his car had “better turn” that run.
Daniel Suarez opted to stay out and would lead the field to green alongside Kyle Busch. Keselowski would restart P4 next to Johnson.
The race went back to green with 135 to go, “Mother nature permitting,” said Mike Joy. Suarez jumped out front but Keselowski took the lead within one lap.
Darrell Wallace, Jr. was on Keselowski's tail as the laps ticked down with Kyle Busch right behind him. With 126 to go, Wallace took the lead from Keselowski who fell to P3, and then P4 with 122 to go.
With 120 to go, Kyle Busch took the lead, with Newman and Larson on his tail, Keselowski was in P6.
With 110 to go, the caution came out for more wintry weather, with Kyle Busch in the lead. Pit road opened and there were many takers. Keselowski stayed out to gain a few positions.
The restart came with 101 to go and Keselowski was in P6. He was able to gain a few positions immediately to be scored in P4 within a lap.
Over the next 20 laps, Keselowski maintained P4 until Stenhouse passed him bumping him back a position.
Between 75 and 72 to go, Keselowski fell back to P10. Little came on the broadcast to say that his car was “losing turn”, he said he was good at the beginning of runs, but it got worse over time.
With 64 to go, Keselowski had fallen to P17 and had gone a lap down, and Larson took the lead from the #18 of Busch.
With 37 to go, Keselowski could be overheard saying that something, possibly his suspension, had broken on his car, and 6 laps later, he brought out the caution as his left front tire was down.
Keselowski finished 5 laps down in P23.
What a roller coaster weekend, with weather and the #2 Ford Fusion.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski sits in 5th with 271 points, and 3 playoff points.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
April 8, 2018
Texas Motor Speedway
1.5 mile Oval
500 miles, 334 laps
Drivers, teams, and their families took Easter weekend off after the snow-delayed Martinsville race to travel with friends and family, serve others through their charities, and one driver, Chris Buescher, even got married.
This weekend, teams traveled to Texas Motor Speedway and what a whacky lead-up to race day it was.
For the opening practice early Friday afternoon, the temperature was near 80 degrees with lots of sunshine, but by the time qualifying rolled around late-afternoon, the clouds had rolled in too. The red-flag dropped after the first round of qualifying with Brad Keselowski in 11th place, putting the final two rounds on hold as there was lightning in the area. NASCAR eventually cancelled the remainder of qualifying, putting Kurt Busch on the pole, starting next to Kevin Harvick.
Team Penske would line up:
Ryan Blaney, 4th
Joey Logano, 7th
The two Saturday practices were held under much different weather conditions with temperatures in the low 40s, which made getting cars race ready a little difficult since Sunday would be a warmer day.
The first practice on Saturday put Keselowski 14th on the board. The second, and final, practice start time was delayed because of rain in the area but teams eventually got about 20 minutes on the track to finish out Saturday’s practice sessions, with Keselowski finishing in 23rd.
During the pre-race broadcast, FS1’s Matt Yocum noted that Keselowski’s setup needed the sun to come out and while the weather was definitely warmer than Saturday, it was still overcast.
As the green flag dropped, everyone was ready to go racing to get some “hats, guns, and boots”, as we overheard Martin Truex, Jr. say.
Harvick took a launch off turn 2 for the lead, while Keselowski jumped to the top 10 into P9.
Lap 2 brought out the first caution with Alex Bowman getting loose near the apron causing damage to the cars of Paul Menard, Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon, and Ross Chastain.
After the restart on lap 8, Harvick again jumped out for the lead again, and Keselowski maintained P9.
Over the next 30 laps, Keselowski continued to maintain P9, and Harvick, the lead. Penske teammate Blaney was in P2, hovering between .6 and 2 seconds behind Harvick.
Lap 41 brought Truex to pit road for a green flag pit stop to break up the stage. This stop brought on many more green flag stops. Keselowski stopped for a wedge adjustment, 4 tires, and fuel.
After green flag stops, Keselowski was in P12 and down a lap, like most of the field, as teams waited for Denny Hamlin to make his stop.
Hamlin finally made his pit stop on lap 56, getting the majority of the field back on the lead lap, putting Keselowski in P8.
With 15 laps to go in stage 1, Harvick continued his dominance with a ten second lead.
Ten laps later, Truex hit the wall hard after having a right, front tire go down in turn 4 to bring out the caution. The damage sustained ended his day.
This caution ended the stage with Harvick winning and Keselowski coming in P8.
Pit road opened on lap 86 and Keselowski opted for 4 tires and fuel.
Stage 2 started on lap 91 with Kyle Busch and Harvick leading the field to green. Keselowski restarted P7.
Kyle Busch shot off like a rocket at the green flag, and Keselowski gained a position within the first lap of stage 2.
On lap 105, Kyle Busch continued to lead, and Keselowski, back to P8, reported that his car was loose in and off the corner.
On lap 117, Harvick took the lead back from Kyle Busch.
Jeff Gordon noted on lap 124 that the sun was starting to come out. We would have to wait and see if this would play out in Keselowski’s favor.
Lap 126 brought out the next caution with Kyle Larson hitting the wall after his right, front tire went down.
Pit road opened and Keselowski noted he had been working his track bar during the last round of laps but it was not helping. His crew gave him a chassis adjustment and 4 tires to restart P8.
Brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch led the field to green on lap 134, with Kurt taking the lead.
After the restart, Harvick, Blaney, and AJ Allmendinger had to take to pit road with loose, right, front wheels.
With 17 to go, Keselowski was in P7, with Kurt Busch still leading.
With 5 to go, the Busch brothers were swapping positions for the lead, with Kyle Busch eventually winning the battle to win stage 2.
As stage 2 finished, only 13 cars were on the lead lap. Keselowski was scored in P7.
Pit road opened and Keselowski reported that he couldn’t run the middle groove in turns 3 and 4. His crew gave him a wedge adjustment, fuel, and tires.
Erik Jones and Kyle Busch would lead the field to the start of stage 3 with Keselowski in P12.
Immediately the caution came out, and eventually NASCAR red-flagged the race for 11 minutes. The #18 of Busch got loose, taking the race 3 wide with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Kurt Busch, and then, as he fell back further, another 3 wide race with Aric Almirola and Jamie McMurray. Hamlin got loose off Almirola and took out Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Trevor Bayne, David Ragan, and the #3 of Austin Dillon. This “big one” ended the day for Johnson, Almirola, Hamlin, and Keselowski.
Matt Yocum caught up with Keselowski who had just checked out of the infield care center and asked, “Where’s the blame?” Keselowski laughed and said, “Aerodynamics. When these cars are side by side, they aren’t meant to run that way. That was a tough finish for us...it’s like we’d gain a few spots and come up, then lose a few spots and go back…. Tough break for everyone on the team, we’ll work on it and get better for next time with the Miller Lite Ford.”
Kyle Busch brought home the checkered flag for the first win of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Team Penske finished the day:
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently in 7th with 237 points (79 points behind the leader, Kyle Busch), and 1 playoff point.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
Assisting, Honoring, and Remembering Those That Protect and Serve
April 2, 2018
One thing many NASCAR fans, lifelong and new to the sport, love about the drivers in the top tier series of racing is their commitment to helping others through their personal foundations. Through these foundations, drivers are able to meet and make memories for terminally ill children and their families, provide numerous resources to animal shelters, and donate financially and physically to many other noble causes.
Brad Keselowski is no exception with his Checkered Flag Foundation, which was formed in 2010 with a mission to “honor and assist those who have sacrificed greatly for our country.”
CHECKERED FLAG FOUNDATION: HELPING VETERANS AND FIRST RESPONDERS ON THEIR ROAD TO RECOVERY
In 2017 the Checkered Flag Foundation raised approximately $450,000 and was able to honor or provide assistance to over “250 individuals and organizations in order to help veterans and first responders during their road to recovery.”
One of the most prominent ways assistance has been provided is through the Fisher House Foundation which serves families who have lost a loved one while serving our country through any branch of the military. In 2017, the Foundation donated $150,000 toward the construction of a Fisher House in Keselowski’s home state of Michigan.
Another way the Foundation served military members in 2017 was through the LTi Printing 200 Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway. At this race, two active-duty military members were hosted by the Foundation and were able to serve as Grand Marshall and Honorary Starter for the race. They also had the opportunity to participate in a meet and greet session with Keselowski and a behind-the-scenes experience for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
NASCAR Salutes is a program initiated by NASCAR to honor fallen and former military members at three different races from Memorial Day through July 4th. Through this series of races in 2017, Keselowski carried the name of a fallen soldier on the windshield of his race car, as well as presented the family with a replica of the windshield. He also hosted two veterans and their caregivers at a CWTS race and partnered with Daytona International Speedway to offer 200 tickets to active-duty military members, veterans, and caregivers, as well as host meet and greet sessions at these events.
National Military Family Association and their Operation Purple Healing Adventure focuses on injured military personnel who are preparing to return, or have recently returned, home, helping these family members reconnect, and providing training on how families can best care for their loved ones. The Checkered Flag Foundation partnered with Operation Purple Healing and Charlotte Motor Speedway to provide a camping experience for injured military members and their families, as well as a meet and greet session at the track with Keselowski and his wife, Paige.
Finally, in 2017, each time Keselowski won a MENCS race, Charlotte-based orthodontists, Drs. Matt and Megan Lineberger with Lineberger Orthodontics, provided orthodontic care to a veteran in need. Through this partnership, three veterans were able to receive orthodontic care thanks to Keselowski’s talent behind the wheel that season. This partnership has carried over to the 2018 NASCAR race season.
According to Suzanne Boyd, Executive Director of the Checkered Flag Foundation, Keselowski has a goal to raise $1 million in 2018 to continue even more of the amazing work he has been doing over the past 7 years.
In response to the incredible ways the Checkered Flag Foundation has been able to serve military members and their families, Keselowski was a 2017 finalist for the Comcast Community Champion of the Year award. He revealed that he had ‘considered joining the armed forces’ if racing didn’t work out for him. He also shared that he feels part of his responsibility is to give back, to show he cares, and to instill hope in others. You can watch his entire interview for NASCAR America here.
SUPPORT FOR THE CHECKERED FLAG FOUNDATION
In addition to direct donations, Keselowski partners with a number of businesses that assist in raising funds and awareness for his foundation.
In the Spring of 2018, Keselowski will launch a personally designed line of eyewear through Epoch Eyewear, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the mission of the Checkered Flag Foundation.
Keselowski also partners with Pure Michigan Talent Connect to help find employment for veterans in the state of Michigan.
Another key partnership has been with Hope for the Warriors. Hope for the Warriors serves as a resource to identify qualified candidates for the benefit or assistance that is available. Hope for the Warriors connected the Checkered Flag Foundation with the recipients for the Daytona Ticket initiative, the LTi Printing 200 dignitaries, and the name of the soldier carried on Keselowski’s car for the Coca-Cola 600. Boyd noted, “As the work that Keselowski and the Foundation are doing becomes more publicized, we receive an increased number of requests from individuals who need assistance. Because we are not set up to offer individual support, we often connect them with Hope for the Warriors as they have resources available to meet the specific needs. Hope for the Warriors plays a key role in helping us to meet our mission.”
Boyd went on to inform me that in addition to the donations and assistance from the aforementioned organizations, the Checkered Flag Foundation holds different fundraisers throughout the year - targeting both corporate sponsors and the general public. She said, “Our two main fundraisers in 2017 were The Huntsman Shootout, which was an invitation-only, private event to benefit the Fisher House Foundation, and the Tribute 2 Veterans program, where fans donated to the Foundation in exchange for placing the name of a veteran on Keselowski’s car for the Phoenix MENCS race.”
In February of 2018, an online store was launched on the Foundation’s website featuring a Checkered Flag Foundation t-shirt and an autographed Race 2 Recovery diecast for fans to purchase. In March, an autographed diecast of Keselowski’s 2017 Martinsville win was added.
Boyd mentioned there are plans to use the store to feature “limited availability” items that fans aren’t able to find anywhere else. When Keselowski was a guest analyst for a February Xfinity race on FS1, he mentioned they had recently “cleaned out the basement” at Brad Keselowski, Inc. and put together mystery bags for fans to purchase. These grab bags were listed at $50 each and sold out in only 15 minutes. A Keselowski fan, Laura M., posted in the Team Penske Nation Facebook group that she was able to purchase a bag and shared the following picture, stating, “I scored!”
All proceeds from items sold in the online store, whether a regular item or limited availability, benefit the mission of supporting and honoring those that have served our country.
CHECKERED FLAG FOUNDATION: TOUCHING THE LIVES OF MILITARY AND THEIR FAMILIES
I asked Boyd if Keselowski makes plans to meet military members and their families at every race or if it just spontaneously happens as he is around the track on race weekends. Boyd responded, “It’s a combination. Sometimes we have specific programs that bring military members to the track. An example of this was last year when we sponsored the National Military Family Association and their Operation Purple Healing Adventure. We worked with Charlotte Motor Speedway to offer those families tickets and pre-race access (to the Bank of America 500), where they had a chance to meet and personally thank Brad and Paige. This meant so much to Brad, Paige, and our entire team. He really is impacted by those that he meets and by the sacrifices they have made. Then there are other times when the meetings are unplanned. I find that people seek out Brad because he is such a strong supporter of our military and first responders. And he’s always interested to meet them, hear their stories, and to show his gratitude.”
Fans on Twitter were all too happy to share how they have supported and donated to, as well as received support from, Keselowski and the Checkered Flag Foundation.
Sharon K. stated that she made a donation to the Checkered Flag Foundation in honor of her father who served in the Air Force for 29 years, in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, retiring in 1985 as a Senior Master Sergeant. Through a donation, she was able to have his name on Keselowski’s car at the November 2017 race at the now ISM Raceway. Keselowski decided to take this one step further to also include the names of the honorees on his CWTS truck #29 driven by Chase Briscoe and, after the race, he sent pieces of the sheet metal with the honorees names to the family members that donated. She shared these two pictures - one of her, her brother, and her father, serving our country alongside each other, and one of the sheet metal from Keselowski’s car that she had framed. She said, “I love that Brad helps the veterans. And I love to see that American flag fly when he wins.”
Cory R. posted that he became a Keselowski fan in 2008 when he was able to meet Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He said that it was “the coolest experience to meet someone so passionate about our nation’s military, and to see him carry it still today is amazing!”
Daniel B. is a direct recipient of assistance from the Checkered Flag Foundation and their partnership with Operation Purple Healing Adventure. He shared the following image and said, “Brad and the Checkered Flag Foundation allowed my family to stay at a beautiful resort in North Carolina, then provided us tickets to the Bank of America 500 (at Charlotte Motor Speedway). He came out and engaged with everyone that had participated in the retreat and then hung around until everyone had a photo with him. Class act!”
You can find more updates on the Checkered Flag Foundation through social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also keep up with current Foundation news by signing up for their email newsletter.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
March 25, 2018
½ mile Oval, Asphalt
250 miles, 500 laps
This week NASCAR headed to the shortest track on the circuit with a not-so-short list of nicknames, including the Half Mile of Mayhem, the Paperclip, the Augusta National of Race Tracks, but known to everyone as Martinsville Speedway.
Mother Nature tried to be the big winner this weekend as rain cancelled Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series qualifying, then rain and snow moved into the area and postponed the Camping World Truck Series race and the Cup race to Monday. Since qualifying was cancelled, drivers lined up according to Owner’s Points, putting the #2 of Brad Keselowski starting in 4th, with Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney in 3rd and 5th.
Pre-race, Jeff Gordon radioed to Keselowski noting that his performance recently at Martinsville had been impressive and felt he was the one to speak with. Gordon went on to ask him about what a driver could do with the changing conditions of the track.
Keselowski responded that a driver needed to have good communication with his team and let them know what he was feeling and what he needed, especially since there was such a big dynamic between the beginning and the end of the race, determining what a driver might need. Keselowski felt he had a good team and could make it happen.
Gordon went on to mention that it was a long race and that could mess with the patience levels of a driver, especially when it came to restarts. He asked if a driver could afford to lose a few spots and Keselowski said he felt you could, especially with a competition caution coming up, and 500 long laps, so “if you have a good car and good technique as a driver,” you could work your way back up.
As noted, there would be a competition caution at lap 50 because of all the weather that had moved through throughout the weekend.
Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch would lead the field once the green flag finally dropped on Monday afternoon. The #78 of Truex led lap one, but had a mirror full of the #18 of Kyle Busch throughout the next few laps.
Lap 5 brought the first lead change of the afternoon as Kyle Busch passed Truex.
Lap 9 had the #11 of Denny Hamlin working his way through Team Penske - first the #12 of Blaney, then the #2 of Keselowski, then finally, the #22 of Logano to eventually snag 3rd place.
Three laps later, Blaney took 5th from Keselowski. Scanner chatter allowed us to hear Keselowski’s spotter, Joey Meier say, “We just don’t carry that momentum exiting right now.”
Hamlin took 2nd place from Truex on lap 19, and then 9 laps later, Hamlin took the lead.
Keselowski was able to make a move on lap 34 and snag 4th place from Truex.
Leading up to the competition caution, on lap 47, Keselowski passed Logano for 3rd.
Pit road opened with the competition caution so drivers could snag tires and fuel, and make any needed adjustments. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, stating no adjustments were needed at this time.
The restart was on lap 57 with Keselowski restarting in 3rd behind Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Lap 66 put Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. into JJ Yeley with a flat right, front tire, but he saved it from bringing out a caution. Wallace took to pit road to get a new tire, and this stop put him two laps down. Wallace had to return to pit road as he was dragging his splitter, putting him even further behind, ultimately 5 laps down.
Lap 87 had Keselowski taking 2nd from the #18 of Busch.
The leaders, Hamlin and Keselowski, met up with lapped traffic with 32 to go in Stage 1. Battles were constantly happening all over the track in true Martinsville fashion.
Stage 1 ended with Keselowski in 2nd, earning 9 points. The yellow came out, and everyone took a breath to pit, regroup, and get ready for stage 2.
During the pit stops, Austin Dillon had to fix a radio issue, Wallace went to the garage to fix a broken sway bar, and a pit crew member of Chris Buescher’s team had to be taken to the hospital after being hit during the competition caution stops. We found out later via Twitter that he sustained an injury to his right leg and would be heading back to Charlotte for more testing.
Keselowski’s crew filled his #2 Ford Fusion with fuel, gave him four fresh tires, and made some air pressure adjustments in his rear tires, allowing him to restart 3rd, with Penske teammate Blaney winning the race off pit road to lead the field to green.
Hamlin was quicker than Blaney and led lap 1, but on lap 146, Blaney was able to snag the lead away from Hamlin.
Fans might remember the air gun issues from a few weeks ago. This week, the #19 team of Daniel Suarez had an air gun actually break in half during a pit stop.
Lap 158 had Keselowski taking 2nd from Hamlin, while Blaney had a 1.5 second lead on his Penske teammate.
As the laps in stage 2 ticked down, Keselowski slowly worked his way up to Blaney.
Lap 179 brought Blaney catching up to lapped traffic, and over the next 10 laps, Blaney continued to pass drivers with steady progress.
With 65 to go in stage 2, Keselowski lost 2nd place to the #14 of Clint Bowyer, and Blaney’s lead grew to 2 seconds.
About 20 laps later, the #18 of Busch battled Keselowski for 3rd place and was able to take it. Ahead of this battle, Bowyer was slowly sneaking up on Blaney, cutting Blaney’s lead to .6 of a second.
With 24 to go in stage 2, Keselowski, who had moved back to 4th, was overheard saying that his car had “gained on forward drive this run, but needs to roll better at the ⅔ point of the corner.”
With 10 to go, Hamlin was battling Keselowski for 4th place.
At this point, with 5 to go, Blaney had put all but 15 cars at least a lap down, and as stage 2 ended, Blaney won and Keselowski came in 4th to snag 7 points.
Keselowski took to pit road to get 4 tires and fuel, along with air pressure and wedge adjustments, and rolled off to restart the final stage in 4th.
Blaney led the field to green to start stage 3 and he shot out like a rocket. Meanwhile, Keselowski lost 2 positions within 3 laps.
Lap 277 brought Matt DiBenedetto to the pits after a left, front tire rub after some contact with Chase Elliott.
Eight laps later, on lap 285, Bowyer took the lead.
Meanwhile, on the broadcast, we could see that Keselowski, currently running 7th, had a hole on the right, front nose of his car from some under-caution contact with Erik Jones. Crew chief Paul Wolfe, opted not to fix it at this point, most likely because the “risk versus reward” wasn’t high enough. Also, the hole was directly in front of his tire, so that was allowing cool air on the tire, which would not be a bad problem to have.
Over the next few laps, Blaney reported that his car was not handling as well and he dropped to 5th, as Kyle Busch, Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick passed him for position. Keselowski was running in 8th.
As the laps ticked by, fans waited for that Martinsville Mayhem to kick in. Up until lap 298, there had been only 3 cautions - two stage breaks, and a competition caution.
By lap 311, Bowyer continued to lead and had a 1.8 second lead on Kyle Busch.
Bowyer maintained his lead as he worked his way through lapped traffic, and lap 333 had Keselowski losing another position to Truex, putting him in 9th.
Lap 384 brought Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the pits for what might have been the start of green flag pit stops, but the first caution for contact came out as Jamie McMurray made contact with the wall after Austin Dillon got loose and tapped the rear of McMurray’s car.
This was a break for Bowyer as he was running low on fuel.
At the restart, Bowyer and Kyle Busch would lead the field to green with 109 laps to go. Keselowski would restart 8th, but gain a spot within the first lap to move to 7th.
With 98 to go, Keselowski battled Kurt Busch for 6th place. Keselowski told his team that the changes they made were not helping, so under caution they went back to the previous adjustments and this seemed to be working as Keselowski won the battle, and cleared Kurt Busch for 6th.
Eight laps later, Kurt Busch was putting pressure back on Keselowski but got loose and lost a few spots, allowing Keselowski to maintain 6th.
With 75 laps to go, Bowyer had led 140 of 425 laps and continued to dominate.
With 45 to go, the #6 of Trevor Bayne got into the wall and made it to the pits without bringing out the caution.
With 21 to go, Alex Bowman was battling, and ended up clearing Keselowski for 7th. Eleven laps later, A.J. Allmendinger took 8th away from Keselowski.
With 9 to go, McMurray’s tire started smoking, and he made it to pit road without bringing out a caution.
Going into the race, Keselowski was definitely one to watch, but Bowyer stole the show, leading 215 laps and pulling out a win, breaking a 190-race winless streak.
Keselowski finished 10th, picking up points in every stage of this race.
The drivers now get a weekend off and will head to Texas Motor Speedway in 2 weeks.
POINTS WATCH: Keselowski is currently 5th, with 226 points and 1 playoff point.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
March 18, 2018
Auto Club Speedway: Fontana, CA
2 mile, D-Shaped Oval, Asphalt
400 miles, 200 laps
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams rolled into Fontana, CA for the final leg of the West Coast Swing at Auto Club Speedway. The weekend opened with a Friday morning practice that did not go well for Team Penske. Brad Keselowski finished the practice, bringing his #2 Wurth Ford Fusion in 20th, while Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney finished 17th and 23rd, respectively. The two big newsmakers of the first practice were Kyle Larson as he hit 212.39mph on a run, and Daniel Suarez who headed to a backup car after he made contact with the wall.
Friday afternoon the drivers took to the track to run for the newly named Busch Beer Pole Award. NASCAR on FOX reporter Jamie Little caught up with Keselowski pre-qualifying to talk tires as 13 cars didn’t pass inspection, including all the Hendrick drivers. Keselowski mentioned he was a little jealous of those drivers as they would have upwards of 5-8 less laps on their tires (those cars that did not pass inspection would not make any qualifying laps).
All 24 cars that passed inspection made a qualifying lap and advanced to round 2, with Keselowski coming in 6th. The drivers that did not pass inspection would line up according to owner points, filling positions 25th-37th. Round two brought Keselowski in 12th to advance to the final round. Keselowski qualified 11th, with Penske teammates, Logano and Blaney coming in 6th and 8th, while Martin Truex, Jr. snagged the pole to start next to Kyle Busch in 2nd.
Late Friday night, NASCAR announced that the teams that passed inspection and made a qualifying lap would have the option to purchase a set of sticker tires for the start of the race, but must turn in the tires that were used during qualifying so the amount of tires would remain the same for each team.
Saturday brought two practices with Keselowski coming in 6th in the early practice, and his Penske teammates also finding some much needed speed. In Happy Hour practice, Keselowski was 9th in the fastest 15 lap averages, coming in 5th overall.
After final practice, Keselowski had the opportunity to be a guest analyst for the Xfinity series race, as Logano piloted the #22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang to victory for Team Penske - their second Xfinity win in as many weeks.
The green flag dropped for the MENCS race and the 78 got a nice lead while cars went 5 wide off turn 2, battling for position. With such a wide track at ACS, drivers were taking advantage of all the room to figure out which lane was going to run the best.
Within 3 laps, Keselowski had made up 3 spots to be scored in 8th position. Three laps later, Harvick pushed past Keselowski to take 8th place.
Lap 13 brought a new leader in the #18 of Kyle Busch.
Green flag pit stops started at lap 28 with the #22 of Logano. Keselowski came in for 4 tires and fuel, stating he was tight on exit. After all cars cycled through, Keselowski was in 6th place.
Lap 22 brought the first caution of the day as the #4 of Harvick got loose and made contact with the #42 of Larson. This caused Harvick to slam the wall and end up with considerable damage to his car, putting him on the 6-minute clock to fix the damage. His crew was able to get him back out on the track, but he was two laps down.
Pit road opened and the #2 of Keselowski stopped for tires and fuel, and was able to restart 4th.
Truex took the lead on the restart with 17 laps until the end of stage 1.
With 12 to go, teammates Logano and Keselowski were battling for 3rd.
Stage 1 ended with Keselowski in 4th, stating that he had “lost drive up off the corner and the entry”.
Pits opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment. Keselowski was 3rd off pit road picking up a spot to restart in 3rd. Logano took the lead for the first lap of stage 2.
Throughout the first laps of stage 2, Keselowski and the #48 of Jimmie Johnson battled for 4th, with Keselowski eventually winning that battle.
By lap 72, Truex was battling Logano for the lead, and lap 73 brought Truex to the front as the new leader.
Lap 87 started green flag pit stops with Larson coming in for a tire vibration. Keselowski stopped for tires, fuel, and adjustments on lap 90. After all cars cycled through their pit stops, Keselowski was in 6th place.
With 21 to go in stage 2, Keselowski went 3-wide with 5th place Denny Hamlin and Ty Dillon, who was 2 laps down, for 5th place.
With 12 to go in stage 2, the #6 of Trevor Bayne brought out the caution when he blew a right, front tire and hit the wall hard. At the same time, the #21 of Paul Menard blew a tire. Pits opened and there were many takers for fresh tires and fuel as there would be a 7 lap shootout for the end of the stage. Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and gained a position to restart in 3rd, next to Logano.
On the restart, Keselowski was able to move ahead to 2nd, behind Truex.
There was an incredible battle for 10th place, and the last points available for this stage, between the #41 of Kurt Busch and the #24 of William Byron, with Byron winning out.
Truex would go on to win stage 2, and Keselowski would come in 2nd.
Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel. Keselowski would restart the final stage in 3rd, with drivers going 6 wide behind him for position. Keselowski dove low to the apron to battle Truex for the lead.
With 72 to go, David Ragan brought out a caution as he had a tire go down and made contact with the wall.
Pit road opened, and while cars were only 3 laps into the final stage, most of the leaders came down. Keselowski took 4 tires and fuel, but lost 3 positions to restart 7th.
With 68 to go, Keselowski went low to move ahead to 3rd, and a lap later, he took 2nd.
Twenty laps later, with 48 to go, Keselowski was holding steady in 3rd, while Kyle Busch ran off the lead.
With 42 laps to go, Truex and Kyle Busch swapped first place and began to battle lapped traffic.
With 40 laps to go, green flag stops began. Keselowski stopped with 37 laps to go and his team gave him 4 fresh tires, fuel and, as pit stops cycled around, Keselowski was back to 4th.
As the laps ticked down, the battle for the lead between Truex and Kyle Busch was incredible.
However, we learned that during his pit stop, the crew of the #18 gave the wrong wedge adjustment and made his car too loose, allowing Truex to get a 6 second lead over Kyle Busch. With 19 to go, Kyle Busch lost 2nd to Larson.
With 15 to go, Truex had a 7 second lead on Larson in 2nd place, an 8 second lead on the #18 in 3rd, and an almost 12 second lead on Keselowski in 4th, with his lead growing with each lap.
While Truex took the checkered flag after leading 125 of 200 laps, it was a definite rebound weekend for Team Penske as Keselowski finished 4th, Logano 5th, and Blaney 8th.
Post race, Keselowski said, “We had exceptional speed today with the Wurth Ford Fusion on the short runs, but not very much for them there on the long runs, that’s for sure. I was hoping to get a late-race caution and I could make it exciting for the fans that are here, but it didn’t pan out that way.”
Next up is the half mile of mayhem at Martinsville.
POINTS WATCH: Now that we’re a few races in, I’ll have a weekly points watch at the end of each recap. Keselowski is currently in 4th place with 183 points and 1 playoff point.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
March 11, 2018
Phoenix International Raceway
1 mile, Tri-Oval, Asphalt
NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series teams headed to ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona for the second leg of NASCAR’s West Coast Swing this week. Brad Keselowski pulled double duty for Team Penske, piloting both the #22 Glider Kit Ford Mustang for the Xfinity race, and his #2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion for the Cup race.
It was made known that this would be the last NASCAR race at ISM Raceway before some updating. When NASCAR returns in November, many changes will have been made to the grandstands and track, including the most notable change, moving the Start/Finish line in between the current Turn 1 and the dogleg. There will also be a reconfiguration of pit road.
DC Solar 200, Xfinity Series
200 miles, 200 laps
In the first Xfinity practice Keselowski came in 4th, and in the second and final practice for Saturday’s race, Keselowski had the best 10 car lap average.
After the Saturday morning Cup practice, Keselowski jumped in the #22 for Xfinity qualifying. Qualifying was important as not only would it set the lineup for this race, but it would also set pit selection for next week at Auto Club Speedway. Keselowski qualified 2nd and would start next to Justin Allgaier who got the pole.
The guest analyst for the Xfinity broadcast this week was Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney.
The green flag dropped and Allgaier took the lead while Keselowski fell to 3rd. However, by lap 10, the #22 of Keselowski had taken 2nd place from Christopher Bell and was making ground on Allgaier. A lap later, Keselowski dove down on the apron and was able to take the lead.
Lap 27 brought out the first caution of the day as the #52 of David Starr blew an engine. Keselowski led the field to the restart on lap 34. He got a little loose and Allgaier took the lead. Keselowski ran him down, and with 10 to go in the stage, he made contact with Allgaier while trying to take the lead. While he saved the car, this move caused a handful of cars to pass him, including Bell, Kyle Busch, and Daniel Hemric, while Keselowski fell to 5th.
Stage 1 ended with Keselowski in 3rd, but also a red flag as the rain began to pour on ISM Raceway. After a 95 minute red flag delay, engines were re-fired and cars were sent back on track under caution. During a pit stop under caution, Keselowski was penalized for speeding on pit road. He was forced to restart 25th. At the restart, drivers went 4 wide to battle for position. Within a few laps of restarting, Keselowski had worked his way up to 16th.
With 21 laps to go in stage 2, looking out of the #11 of Ryan Truex, those watching on TV could see rain on his windshield. In response, you could feel the anticipation ramping up on track as the end of stage 2 would mean an official race if red flagged.
Ten laps to go in stage 2 had the #22 of Keselowski working his way into, and through, the top 10. Two laps later, the #15 of Matt Mills, slipped into the outside wall and brought out the caution as rain continued to fall. Drivers were warned that pit road was slick with all the rain. Keselowski opted to stop under this caution to restart 16th.
However, before the race could go back to green, NASCAR brought the cars down pit road under a red flag, with 3 laps remaining in the stage, so therefore not an official race. The Air Titans were immediately deployed once the rain stopped and the radar looked relatively clear.
After going back to green after a 25 minute red flag delay, Busch and Hemric led the field to green, it was a 1 lap dash to the end of the stage with Busch winning the stage and Keselowski finishing in 15th, bringing out the end of stage caution and opening pit road.
Lap 97 brought the green flag starting the final stage, with Keselowski restarting in 5th and Allgaier leading. Keselowski quickly piloted the #22 to 2nd place. The final stage started with a long green flag run and with 74 to go, Keselowski started to cut into Allgaier’s lead. With 58 to go, Keselowski took the lead from Allgaier.
With 33 to go, Keselowski stopped under green for 4 tires and fuel, and Bell stopped at the same time. Keselowski beat him off pit road, but had to battle Bell for position once back on track. Ten laps later, Keselowski took the lead from Kaz Grala. After Keselowski took the lead, he rode off with nearly a 2 second lead over Allgaier.
After a long, multiple rain delayed day, Keselowski went on to take the checkered flag for Team Penske.
After the race in Victory Lane, Keselowski said, “I felt the car was better than me today. Justin Allgaier, quite honestly, out-drove me for most of the day...Just really proud of the effort to get Brian Wilson and this Team Penske 22 team back to Victory Lane."
Ticket Guardian 500, Cup Series
312 miles, 312 laps
The first practice of the weekend for the Cup series was a 50 minute practice under sunny skies and 80 degree temperatures. The red flag came out just a few minutes into practice for the #17 of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. who locked up his brakes in turn 3 and slammed the wall. He had major damage to his car and ended up moving to a backup car. Keselowski ran 8 laps and finished the practice in 13th.
Qualifying on Friday evening was not kind to the #2 team. The first round of qualifying brought out a red flag when Jeffrey Earnhardt had a similar issue as Stenhouse. After qualifying resumed, with 4:15 left in Round 1, Keselowski went out for his run and was 21st fastest. After a few other cars made their runs, the #41 of Kurt Busch ended up bumping Keselowski, preventing him from moving to the next round and requiring him to start in 25th. NASCAR on Fox commentator, Jeff Gordon, wondered aloud if Keselowski “was holding back” to save his car for rounds 2 and 3, but didn’t put enough on the table to make it to those rounds.
The second Cup practice was under much different weather conditions. It was cloudy and windy, with temperatures in the high 60s. Keselowski made his first runs, and with about 26 drivers taking laps, jumped to 3rd on the practice board. He finished this practice in 4th. The final practice had Keselowski holding steady in 12th with a lap speed of 133.74mph.
Prior to the start of the race, NASCAR announced there would be a competition caution at lap 35 because of the rain that moved through the area on Saturday.
Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Larson led the field to green on a gorgeous Arizona day. Battles for position took place throughout the field, and Larson pulled ahead to led lap 1. While Keselowski started 25th, by lap 6, he had fallen to 30th. Less than 20 laps later, Keselowski had managed to move up to 23rd.
Lap 25 brought out the first caution. The #72 of Corey LaJoie blew an engine as the #42 of Larson was attempting to lap him.
Since this caution was so close to the announced competition caution, NASCAR said this would serve as the competition caution and teams could take fuel. Keselowski opted for 2 right side tires and was 6th off of pit road. His crew helped him gain 17 spots to restart in 6th.
Larson took the lead on the restart, and behind him the #18 of Kyle Busch and the #4 of Kevin Harvick battled for 4th. Kyle Busch won that and quickly worked his way to 2nd.
Keselowski maintained 6th place throughout the next green flag run. Ahead of him, Harvick was slowly picking off the leaders and making his way toward the front.
With 20 to go in stage 1, the #18 of Busch attempted to take the lead from Larson. 2 laps later, the #18 was successful in taking the lead. But Harvick was right on his tail.
With 12 to go in stage 1, Harvick had moved to 2nd and Keselowski had lost a spot and was riding in 7th. Keselowski was overheard saying that “1 and 2” was his biggest struggle.
As stage 1 came to a close, Keselowski battled the #41 of Busch and finished the stage in 7th. During the end of stage caution, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, and gained 2 positions to restart stage 2 in 6th.
As the #18 of Kyle Busch took the lead in stage 2, Keselowski fell to 8th. Lap 47 of the second stage brought out the caution as Larson got loose and spun out. Pit road opened and Keselowski stopped for 2 tires and gained 7 positions as he won the race off pit road.
Keselowski was able to restart 1st, but a few laps later, Kyle Busch took the lead. As the laps ticked down, Keselowski was getting passed, as he just didn’t have the speed he needed.
With 4 laps to go in stage 2, Chris Buescher had a right front tire go down bringing out the caution. This caution allowed pits to open, but Keselowski stayed out.
There was a 1 lap shootout to end stage 2, with Kurt Busch as the winner. Keselowski came in 2nd. The end of stage caution allowed pit road to open on lap 153, and Keselowski came down for fuel and 4 tires.
This pit stop forced the #2 team to restart further back. Throughout the final stage, Keselowski slowly worked his way toward the front. He was in 13th when the next caution came out. The #21 of Paul Menard spun and hit the wall hard when he had a part malfunction.
Pits opened and Keselowski opted to pit. He restarted 18th with 115 to go in the race. Drivers were battling for position all around. With 52 to go, Keselowski took the lead as all the other drivers, except the #31 of Ryan Newman, had made green flag pit stops. FOX Analyst Larry McReynolds noted, “If you don’t have a winning car, you have to do something out of the box,” and he felt like this was the strategy of the #2 team.
With 27 to go, Keselowski finally opted to stop for 4 tires and fuel, with Newman following a few laps later.
With Newman’s stop, the #4 of Harvick took the lead and, for the 3rd week in a row, stayed out front to win. Keselowski drove the #2 Ford Fusion to a 15th place finish.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
March 4, 2018
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
1.5 mile, Tri-Oval, Asphalt
400 miles, 267 laps
Two-time Las Vegas Motor Speedway winner, Brad Keselowski, headed to Las Vegas after finishing runner-up to Kevin Harvick at Atlanta Motor Speedway the previous weekend. Keselowski had previously won Vegas in 2014 and 2016. Could he keep up the even year win streak in 2018?
Keselowski finished the first practice on Friday afternoon in 7th, only running five laps, with his fastest speed being 189.440mph.
Prior to qualifying later Friday afternoon, Keselowski was asked what the fun factor was at Las Vegas. He responded, “Driving through the bumps. Going as fast as you can without making a mistake.”
Keselowski passed through all 3 rounds of qualifying, pulling in 2nd during round 1, 8th in round 2 after making a second run, and then finishing in 8th position in the 3rd round. Team Penske teammates succeeded in making the top 12 as well with Joey Logano qualifying in 10th and Ryan Blaney taking the pole.
Saturday morning brought the first practice of the day with Keselowski finishing 12th. Practices wrapped up on Saturday afternoon and had him finishing in 7th, but he was in the top 5 in the best 10 lap average.
After Happy Hour practice, Keselowski traded his fire suit for a suit and tie to help call the Xfinity race as a guest analyst. Being a two-time winner at Las Vegas, his experience definitely added a different perspective to the calling of the race. While in the booth, Keselowski made a comment that one of his favorite things about watching the race from the booth was that you can see and learn so much about the track, learn which lines are the best, and then carry that over to the Cup race.
Kenny Wallace, with NASCAR RaceDay, caught up with Keselowski to touch base before the race. Wallace brought up a tweet where Keselowski had friends asking him how it felt to be one of the “old guys” in the sport. Keselowski said that the youth movement was “good for the sport” because it brings in new fans. Wallace went on to ask about turns 1 and 2. Keselowski said these turns were “incredibly rough”, as was “coming off 4”. He said you have to pick the right lane at the right time.
After pre-race ceremonies and the command being given, the green flag dropped with Blaney and Harvick leading the field. Blaney led lap one, but the #4 of Harvick picked up where he left off the previous week at Atlanta and jumped ahead of the field. Within 7 laps, he had a 1 second lead on Blaney, and by lap 15, a 2 second lead. Behind him, Blaney and Martin Truex, Jr. battled for 2nd, and Keselowski moved from 8th to 7th. By lap 35, Harvick had lapped over 5 cars, including 7-time champion, Jimmie Johnson and Cup rookie, William Byron.
Lap 36 brought the start of green flag pit stops. Keselowski came in for 4 tires, fuel, and minor adjustments after telling his team he was “extremely loose on exit.” Michael McDowell and David Ragan stayed out, hoping for a caution. Prior to their stops, Keselowski was 7 seconds back in 6th. Lap 50 brought Harvick back to the lead.
Also, to follow up with the pit gun issues from Atlanta, Harvick’s team reported a problem with their gun, stating that a pin came out of the gun at the end of their pit stop and they had moved on to a backup pit gun (later, PRN reported it was a socket that flew off the gun).
With 14 to go in Stage 1, Harvick had led 53 of 65 laps, and had a 5 second lead on Truex in 2nd.
With 6 to go in Stage 1, only 15 cars were on the lead lap, and Truex was making ground on Harvick.
Stage 1 ended with Harvick winning, and Keselowski in 6th. Penske teammates, Blaney and Logano, came in 4th and 5th respectively.
During the end of stage caution, Keselowski came to pit road to get 4 tires and fuel. In the process, they lost a position and restarted Stage 2 in 7th, with Harvick and Kyle Larson leading the field to green. During his pit stop, Harvick’s pit crew had another issue with their pit gun.
Harvick again sped ahead at the restart, and Blaney jumped to 2nd. Larson fell to 3rd, while Keselowski moved up a position to 6th.
McDowell took his car to the garage at lap 105 as he had mechanical issues with a great deal of smoke in his car. This move allowed the race to stay green.
At lap 41 of 80 in Stage 2, Keselowski made a move on Truex to take 4th, as green flag pit stops began. Keselowski noted he was still loose on exit and navigating was difficult in traffic. He came in for 4 tires and fuel. After green flag stops cycled around, Harvick continued to lead and Keselowski was in 4th.
This round of green flag stops brought more pit gun issues to the teams of Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch. NASCAR officials spent time looking over Suarez’s pit gun to determine the issue.
With 20 to go, Harvick continued to dominate with a 2.5 second lead over the field, but Penske drivers were attempting to make ground on him with Blaney, Logano, and Keselowski running 2nd through 4th.
With 13 to go in Stage 2, Larson was battling for, and ended up taking, 4th place from Keselowski. Kyle Busch was the next car to battle Keselowski for position, putting the #2 car of Keselowski in 6th.
Thanks to Harvick’s dominance, the final laps of Stage 2 put only 13 cars on the lead lap.
Stage 2 ended with Harvick winning again, and Keselowski finishing in 6th.
Pit stops under the end of stage caution brought Keselowski to pit road to snag 2 tires and fuel.
Logano and Kyle Busch led the field to green to start the final stage, with Keselowski in 6th. Logano surged ahead to lead lap the first lap in the final stage, with Blaney in 2nd and Keselowski in 8th.
On lap 176, Jamie McMurray brought out the first caution for contact as his right front tire went down and he hit the wall. He had extensive damage and ended up calling it a day. Ryan Newman got the free pass for this caution. Pit road opened and most cars opted to pit. Truex decided to gamble and stayed out. Keselowski came in for 4 tires and fuel, and he was able to gain 3 positions.
Under caution with 88 to go, we could overhear how upset Keselowski was regarding how his car was managing in traffic. He even said, “I’m going to start wrecking people, this is out of control!”
Restarting with 85 to go, the lineup was: Truex, Logano, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Blaney, Chase Elliott, Paul Menard, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola.
The green flag dropped and Logano sped ahead. Before the lap was over, Kurt Busch lost control and slammed hard into Elliott, and then the wall, ending the day for both drivers.
Under caution, with 74 to go, pit road opened with a few takers, but none of the leaders opted to stop.
Restarting with 73 to go, Keselowski was 7th, with Logano and Harvick leading the field to green. Logano got the lead, but coming out of turn 1, Harvick took over, with Blaney right on his tail.
At 69 to go, Truex in 5th was reporting some significant vibrations in his tires. It should be noted, this was not his first tire issue of the weekend. He experienced issues during qualifying as well.
Coming off turn 4 with 66 to go, Harvick had a 2.5 second lead over Blaney. Keselowski was in 7th.
With 52 to go, coming off turn 2, Logano, Kyle Busch and Truex took the racing 3 wide while fighting for 4th place.
With 50 to go, Keselowski came in to short pit, trying something different as nothing else was working. He was overheard telling crew chief, Paul Wolfe, “I know we have a good car, I can’t get myself in the right position.” He also noted that he was way too free on entry. He took 4 tires and fuel.
With 43 to go, the rest of the field started their green flag pit stops. After the stops cycled around, Keselowski was in 2nd, with Harvick back in the lead.
With 21 to go, Kyle Busch flew by Keselowski for 2nd. And 5 laps later, Blaney passed Keselowski for 3rd. Keselowski had the oldest tires on the track by 8 laps, and it was starting to show, as Larson passed him putting him back to 5th.
With 7 to go, Harvick got caught up in lapped traffic, but once out of traffic, he pushed to almost a 4 second lead over Kyle Busch.
2 laps later, the #19 of Suarez ran out of fuel, but made it to his pit stall to keep the race green.
Harvick took the white flag indicating 1 lap to go, and a lap later, took the checkered flag for a 2nd week in a row, and bringing home his 100th win over the 3 series of NASCAR.
Top 10 included: Harvick, Kyle Busch, Larson, Truex, Blaney, Keselowski, Logano, Erik Jones, Menard, and Almirola.
In a post race interview, Keselowski said, “We had really good short-run speed and I thought we would be really good on the long runs today but it turned out we were really good on the short runs. That wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The short run speed was really strong but I just couldn’t get anywhere to capitalize on it.”
NASCAR’s West Coast Swing will continue next Sunday afternoon at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
February 25, 2018
Atlanta Motor Speedway
1.5 mile, Oval, Asphalt
500 miles, 325 laps
This race weekend started off with two practice sessions and qualifying on the second-oldest surface of the current NASCAR circuit. Atlanta Motor Speedway has been compared to a cheese grater because of how the track surface tears up tires. Last season, NASCAR wanted to re-pave the surface, as it had been 20 years since it was last resurfaced, however drivers petitioned to hold off on the re-pave, and ultimately, NASCAR obliged. Many of the drivers love the strategy involved with all the tire wear, and most importantly, they love the notes they have on the current track surface - the veteran drivers like having that advantage over the young guns.
Practices were not kind to defending Atlanta Motor Speedway winner, Brad Keselowski, as he finished the first practice in 24th, and the second and final practice in 29th.
However, qualifying went better for Keselowski. He led round 1 to advance to round 2. Round 2 had him in 4th, and he finished round 3 of qualifying in 5th place. Penske teammates, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, qualified 16th and 26th respectively.
Sunday’s race was moved up an hour in an attempt to avoid any potential rainy weather. But, Mother Nature had her own plans and forced a 2.5 hour rain delay, causing the green flag to finally drop on the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 around 3:15pm ET.
All eyes in Atlanta were on Kevin Harvick and some drivers even coined the term “Harvicking” to describe how Harvick has mastered getting in and out of the throttle and hugging the yellow line around Atlanta Motor Speedway over the years. While Kyle Busch earned the pole starting alongside Ryan Newman, and Newman quickly sped away and led lap 1, Harvick did not disappoint and by lap 20, he was the new leader.
Martin Truex, Jr. had issues passing the new Optical Scanning Station (OSS) prior to qualifying and ended up not making it on track for a qualifying attempt and was forced to start at the rear. Truex wasted no time ticking off cars, and had landed himself in the top 10 by lap 20.
Fans were treated to clean racing with lots of action through lap 25. Drivers were trying out different lanes on this rain-washed, green track to determine where the racing was best.
NASCAR called for a Competition Caution at Lap 30. At this point, Harvick was leading and Keselowski was 9th. Once pits were open, there were many takers. Keselowski opted for 4 tires and fuel.
The race restarted with Keselowski 9th. And after the restart, Harvick continued to dominate and the green-flag, caution-free racing continued as well. With 20 to go in Stage 1, Harvick had a 4 second lead on the rest of the field. During the broadcast, the spotters were overheard sharing with their drivers exactly what and how Harvick was “Harvicking.” Keselowski’s spotter, Joey Meier, was overheard saying he was “amazed” by what Harvick was doing.
With 5 to go in Stage 1, Newman hit the wall. He managed to make it to pit road without bringing out the caution but had significant damage to the right-front of his car.
Stage 1 ended with Harvick winning the stage and Keselowski in 3rd.
As pit road opened, Keselowski stopped for 4 tires and fuel, and after racing 3 wide off pit road with Truex and Kurt Busch, his crew managed to gain him 2 spots.
There were a number of penalties issued to drivers during this pit stop, including ones to Alex Bowman for speeding on pit road, Erik Jones for running over an air hose, and Blaney for having a crew member over the wall too soon.
After all the shuffling, Keselowski led the field to green to start the 2nd stage. Lap 14 of the 2nd stage was Keselowski’s personal fastest of the race up until that point. Kurt Busch came up fighting for the lead and by lap 16, the #41 was the new leader.
Lap 40 brought a 3 wide fight for the lead between Kurt Busch, Keselowski and Harvick. Harvick snagged the lead, putting Keselowski in 3rd.
Shortly thereafter, green flag pits stops began. Keselowski headed for his pit stall informing his crew his car was “much looser” through the last run.
The race continued incident free until lap 159 when Jimmie Johnson spun out and had major damage to the right-front of his car.
Johnson’s damage brought out the yellow and with 10 to go, pits opened up. Keselowski said he had been working his trackbar and the car was still on the free side. His crew put on 4 fresh tires, and with their speedy work, they allowed him to win the race off pit road and gain a position.
At the restart, with 7 to go, Keselowski was 1st with Harvick by his side. Harvick spun his tires allowing for Keselowski to jump ahead to a 1 second lead over Kurt Busch.
At the end of Stage 2, the race would be official, so drivers started racing for that potential win in case rain moved into the area. Speeds were picking up as the track cooled off, and Keselowski came out the winner of Stage 2 with teammate Logano in 4th.
Pits opened and Keselowski snagged 4 tires and fuel, and headed back on track to talk with Jeff Gordon over the radio to celebrate the stage win. Keselowski first commented on just how strong Harvick had been, not just during this race, but every year at Atlanta. He said that the bottom groove saves your tires a little, and being the shortest distance around the track, that is where you need to stay. He wrapped up his interview saying, “Just when you think you understand the track, it changes!”
Keselowski restarted 3rd, with a crazy restart forcing drivers 3 wide, jockeying for position.
With about 132 to go, the rain had held off so far, but was starting to move in on the radars - the tension was palpable.
Keselowski raced ahead and was battling the #41 of Busch for the lead with Harvick right on his tail. This battle raged on for 3 more laps when Keselowski finally took the lead as viewers started to see rain drops on the camera lenses.
With 124 laps to go, Keselowski starting battling lapped traffic which slowed his pace down and allowed Harvick to catch up. About 10 laps later, green flag pit stops began, with Newman and Blaney leading the way. Harvick pitted one lap before Keselowski and ended up taking the lead. When Keselowski did pit, he snagged 4 more tires and fuel. Denny Hamlin and Logano were waiting as long as possible to pit - potentially playing a little strategy with the weather. With 100 to go, Hamlin and Logano finally made their pit stops and allowed Harvick and Keselowski to claim positions 1 and 2 respectively.
39 laps later, with 73 to go, Keselowski made another green flag pit stop for 4 more tires, and he also let his team know that he was freer on the last run and his car was “taking off differently.”
There were 37 more laps of caution free racing cycling around to another round of green flag pit stops. Keselowski noted that he did not have as much grip as previous runs, and his crew changed all 4 tires on this stop.
As Keselowski got back on the track, A.J. Allmendinger had a right rear tire go down. He made it to pit road without bringing out the caution. But only 6 laps later, Trevor Bayne lost an engine, sending a huge cloud of smoke covering the track. The yellow came out, but in the midst of the chaos and smoke, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., who couldn’t see anything, and spotter coverage was minimal at best, rear ended Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. causing a great deal of damage to Wallace’s #43.
The pits opened and Keselowski stopped for 4 more tires and fuel, noting that he was much freer. But his crew got him out of the pits quickly and he gained a position to restart 2nd. Penske teammate, Logano, was restarting behind him and told his spotter, TJ Majors, that he was “not comfortable pushing Keselowski”, that he was worried he would get him loose. Keselowski called to his own spotter and asked for Logano to not push him because the track was so slick.
A crazy restart sent cars 4 wide down the straightaway battling for position, but in the end, Harvick got the lead and for the final 20 laps, dominated to win the race. Harvick ended up leading 181 of 325 laps.
Keselowski finished 2nd. He was smiling during his post-race interview and said, “We had a really strong day on pit road, and you know how many pit stops you have here at Atlanta, that can be critical to a team’s success, so really proud of all the guys on the Autotrader Ford team for that. Kevin, man! He was just in a league of his own. He deserves a lot of credit for that…I was throwing everything I could throw at him...we just didn’t have enough, so congrats to them.”
Penske teammates, Logano and Blaney, finished 6th and 12th.
A takeaway from the weekend was that many teams experienced issues with their pit guns - either malfunctioning, coming apart or not tightening lug nuts as tight as they should. As a reminder, NASCAR attempted to cut development costs for teams by restricting teams from using their own pit guns and using ones issued (via lottery) by NASCAR. Many teams faced longer pit stops due to these malfunctions, or having to pit multiple times because they simply weren’t sure the lug nuts on the cars were tight enough. NASCAR is reviewing these cases along with the system and we should know more as we get closer to the Las Vegas race this weekend.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
February 15, 2018
The Duels at Daytona
60 laps/150 miles per Duel
To win a race like the Daytona 500, so many things have to line up perfectly, and then, so often, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time. After winning The Clash the previous Sunday, Brad Keselowski started Duel #1 in 10th place, but quickly worked his way to the Top 5. During an early pit stop, Keselowski told crew chief, Paul Wolfe, that he was “loose on the straightaway” and the car was “ill-handling and chattery”. Keselowski’s pit crew went to work attempting to make his car better.
Halfway through Duel #1, Team Penske was leading the way - Keselowski in 3rd with his teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney in 1st and 2nd. In the closing laps, many drivers attempted bump drafting and pushing to see what the cars would do with the new aero packages, ride heights, and lower spoiler.
With 4 to go, the action picked up. Throughout Duel #1, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the most aggressive, using air to his advantage to pass other drivers, and ultimately wrecking a few along the way, including rookie, William Byron, and David Gilliland.
But with 3 to go, Keselowski brought out the 4th and final caution. Jamie McMurray pulled up and hooked with Keselowski’s car sending them both spinning and, ultimately, putting Keselowski in a backup car for the 500. Blaney ended up winning Duel #1, with a push from best friend, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., securing a starting spot of 3rd, and in Duel #2, Chase Elliott won to start the Great American Race in 4th.
Sunday, February 18
Stages: 60/60/80 laps
Despite having to start 31st, and in a backup car, Keselowski felt this car was the fastest they had and they were ready to win. In a pre-race interview he said that in the past, the “last 100 miles have bit us”.
Keselowski had the honor of carrying a quote from Discount Tire founder, Bruce Halle, on his bumper. Halle passed away earlier this year, and Keselowski said he was fortunate to know him and honor him in this way, and aspired to carry on these five key values, not only on the track, but in life as well. This quote read, “Be honest, work hard, have fun, be grateful, and pay it forward.”
Then, the time came. All the hard work in the offseason was about to be put to the test. Recently retired driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., ferociously gave the command to fire the engines. After a few pace laps, the green flag dropped on a gorgeous Daytona day, with Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin leading the field to kick off the 2018 NASCAR season.
Only 9 laps in, Corey LaJoie brought out the first caution with engine trouble. There were many takers once pit road opened, and the pit road issues started immediately with Hamlin pitting outside of his pit box and ending up a lap down after serving his penalty.
By lap 21, Keselowski had made his way to the top 10, and was fighting to maintain this gain.
On lap 29, Kyle Busch had his left rear tire go flat but made it to pit road without bringing out a caution.
Throughout the next few laps, Stenhouse, Elliott, and Logano each took turns leading until a caution was brought out after Kyle Busch tangled with Jamie McMurrary and DJ Kennington with 10 to go. During this caution, many drivers took to pit road, including Keselowski who opted for a long stop for his crew to assess damage to his splitter.
With 5 to go, Keselowski restarted 29th, and stage 1 ended under caution. Stenhouse made a save to avoid Blaney, and while Stenhouse made the save, Erik Jones didn’t. He spun and collected Byron, Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson, and Ty Dillon, ending the day for all involved but Byron. Kurt Busch won the first stage of the season, and Keselowski finished 17th.
Keselowski restarted stage 2 in 6th with Bowman and Blaney leading the field to green.
On lap 93, Byron brought out the next caution. After rubbing the wall, he cut down a right front tire, and had debris flying out from under his car. Keselowski opted to pit under this caution, and said his car was on the free side. He also stated he had been working the track bar and it helped some. He took two tires and gained a position, restarting 3rd.
19 laps to go in the second stage brought out the next caution. Elliott was trying to take the lead from Blaney when Blaney blocked him. Keselowski bumped Elliott to attempt to pass and take 2nd from Elliott. This incident sent Elliott spinning, taking out Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, and Michael McDowell. This also ended Keselowski’s day.
After clearing the infield medical center, FOX reporter, Jamie Little, caught up with Keselowski. Keselowski confirmed he was fine, and said he just got too strong of a run. He also stated they had an incredible car, but it just didn’t come together.
As the race continued, Stenhouse pitted as he started overheating with 8 to go in stage 2. Keselowski’s teammate, Blaney held off the field to win stage 2, with other Penske teammate, Logano, in 3rd.
As the field came to green for the last 80 laps of the race, you could feel the tension mounting. Within 9 laps of the final segment of the race, we saw single file racing for the first time in the race.
Green flag pit stops started around 45 to go, with the leaders pitting around 30 to go.
Penske teammate, Logano, was penalized for entering pit road too quickly and had to serve a pass through penalty, and with 27 to go, the field cycled around to Blaney leading again.
At 23 to go, the broadcasters confirmed Blaney had led 100 of 177 laps. From there, the chaos began.
With 11 to go, Byron spun out allowing Logano to take the free pass and get back on the lead lap.
At 7 to go, Kurt Busch took the lead from Blaney. Blaney tried to bump draft Kurt Busch but went spinning and took out Bowman, Martin Truex, Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Newman, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Matt DiBenedetto, A.J. Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Stenhouse, and Logano.
After all debris was cleared, the first overtime of the Cup season was upon the drivers. Logano restarted 7th and Blaney 9th, with Hamlin leading.
Aric Almirola took the white flag but, as luck would have it, with half a lap left, Austin Dillon bumped Almirola to make a pass and Almirola spun out, slamming hard into the wall. Austin Dillon took the checkered flag for his first ever Daytona 500 win. Keselowski officially finished 32nd.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ
February 11, 2018
A few hours before the green flag dropped on The Clash in Daytona, Brad Keselowski ‘called his shot.’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted and asked fans who they thought would win. Within minutes, Keselowski tweeted his response, “I believe that we will win”, complete with a cheesy grin emoji and a checkered flag. This was a “cup of confidence”, according to the FOX Broadcasters, as the blind draw for the lineup had him starting 17th - out of 17 drivers.
Keselowski spent no time ticking off cars and making his way toward the front. Within 15 laps he was in the top 3, fighting Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon for the lead.
NASCAR fans waited in anticipation of the first pit stop of the season with the new rules. As a reminder, the new rule states only 4 crew members PLUS a fuel man, who can do nothing but add gas to the car and kick a tire back to the wall, are the only ones allowed over the wall during pit stops.
The time came for the pit stop. Cars entered their pit stalls and the teams jumped over the wall. It was very interesting to see the different strategies employed by teams.
The Competition Caution came out at the end of lap 25 and all but 4 teams had pitted immediately before the caution.
Before going back to green, Jimmie Johnson had to serve a pass-through penalty for driving through too many pit stalls on his way into his stall.
Keselowski’s team got him off pit road quickly and after the cars in front of him pitted under caution, he was in prime position. Keselowski led the field back to green with his Penske teammates, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano, who were not far behind in 3rd and 4th with 46 laps to go.
With the first pit stop behind them and the end of this short race in sight, things started to get dicey. Martin Truex, Jr., the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion, got boxed in with some bumping from Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, and Kevin Harvick as they all battled for position.
Back at the front, Keselowski had a .12 second lead on Chase Elliott, who had his hands full battling Blaney to hang on to 2nd.
Keselowski was overheard informing Joey Meier, his spotter, that it was “hard to switch lanes in the corner, especially going up. Going down isn’t so bad, but going up is very difficult.” This will be something they’ll want to work on as they prepare for Sunday and the 500. This difficulty will come into play when trying to block the fastest lines or break up momentum of other drivers.
Meanwhile, behind him, Kyle Busch and Logano were doing Busch and Logano things. For those new to the sport, these two drivers seem to find each other throughout the season, no matter the track, and there is usually contact either in or out of the car and sometimes both.
All over the track cars were going 3-wide and there was constant shuffling as young guns, like Chase Elliott, made wild moves. With still 42 to go, drivers were racing like it was the final laps.
Jamie McMurray lost control after some very minor contact with Kurt Busch and slammed into the wall, bringing out the first accident caution of the season. He suffered some damage to the right front of his car. His team attempted to repair this damage but ended up calling it a day.
This caution brought in about half the (condensed) field for fuel and tires, including the #2, who opted for two right side tires only (along with Chase Elliott). According to the broadcast, all others that stopped took 4 tires.
Elliott and Keselowski led the field to green with 37 to go and coming out of turn 2, Keselowski got a run off of Elliott to solidify his lead. Behind him, Blaney surged ahead to battle with Truex for 2nd, and behind them, Hamlin was pushing Elliott to attempt to steal some spots closer to the front.
With 33 to go, Truex attempted to take the lead from Keselowski, but the #2 immediately snatched it back. It was at this time that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. caused commotion (and nearly broke Twitter as people took to social media to discuss this rule) by dropping below the double yellow line to advance his position over Kyle Busch - or did Busch push him down? Twitter is still discussing. But NASCAR required Stenhouse to serve a pass-through penalty.
With 15 to go Team Penske led the way 1, 2, 3, - Keselowski, Blaney, and Logano, respectively. A few drivers would jump out of line and attempt to head to the front but would instead get sucked back a few spots. Most drivers seemed, at this point, content to simply wait for the perfect time to make their move.
With 7 to go, Keselowski was informed he had some trash on the nose of his car. However, it was covering very little of the opening and it was “just like taping it up” so everyone felt this would play into his favor and wouldn’t harm the engine with so few laps left.
As the laps ticked away, eyes were on Jimmie Johnson who was dubbed “6 time” in the Clash but not for a good reason. He had wrecked out of the previous 6 Clash races - would this be his year? Johnson poked his nose out to see if anyone would take a chance and follow him to the front but no bites. Then Logano tried again with no takers. Austin Dillon, being pushed by Elliott, also attempted to make a move on the bottom with 2 to go.
As soon as the white flag dropped, indicating 1 to go, Blaney made his move to pass Keselowski for the win. This move did not play into Blaney’s favor as he was immediately sucked back to 5th.
Wouldn’t you know it, with half a lap left, Johnson got a little tap from Kyle Larson and turned into the wall, taking Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Kasey Kahne with him.
On the other side of the track, Brad Keselowski took the first checkered flag of the season followed by teammates Logano in 2nd and Blaney, who managed to avoid Johnson’s wreck happening around him, in 4th.
In Victory Lane under a shower of Miller Lite, Keselowski said crew chief Paul Wolfe joked, after realizing they’d be starting last, that this would be the year they won.
Hopefully, Keselowski was able to gain some insight to the new ride heights and body package and how the cars are handling, especially on this track, and he can carry that over to the Daytona 500.
Follow and chat with me here: @TerraLJ