RIDGEWAY, Va. (October 30, 2011) – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 17th in the Tums Fast Relief 500 – the seventh race in the 2011 Chase for the Championship – at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The Penske Racing driver found himself running in the eighth position with two laps remaining when, in between Turns 1 and 2, the No. 88 car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. made contact with the No. 11 machine driven by Denny Hamlin, which sent Hamlin into Keselowski. The contact caused Keselowski to spin and allowed most of the lead-lap cars to pass him.
With the result, Keselowski fell to the fourth position in the Chase standings, and he is now 27 points behind series leader Carl Edwards.
Keselowski began Sunday’s 500-lap event from the third position after rain showers canceled the Saturday qualifying session, which caused NASCAR to line up the cars based on series points, per the rulebook. When the race began, Keselowski radioed that the forward drive of the No. 2 car off the corners was the best it had been all weekend. However, he had trouble getting the Miller Lite machine to turn in the center of the flat Martinsville corners. Once the tire pressures built up after running several laps, the tight-handling condition improved, but Keselowski lost the critical forward drive. As a result, Keselowski dropped back to the 12th position before visiting pit road at lap 48 for track bar and air pressure adjustments.
Unfortunately the adjustments did not have the desired effect on the handling of the chassis. Crew chief Paul Wolfe continued to make a combination of track bar and air pressure adjustments to give Keselowski the feel he needed to regain the lost track position. At lap 134, while running in the 28th position, Keselowski radioed that once the track began to gain more rubber, the lack of forward drive would be dramatically improved. At the 200-lap mark, this began to occur and Keselowski started making his way back to the front of the field.
By lap 237, Keselowski was back inside the top-10 thanks to lap times that were faster than the race leader. He would not fall back outside of that benchmark number for the remainder of the event. Following a lap 264 restart, Keselowski was running in the seventh position as the race settled in to its longest green-flag run of 97 laps. He radioed that the forward drive on the Miller Lite Dodge had improved and he looked to be in position to capitalize late in the event and fight for the win.
The last 150 laps of the race were marred by eight caution flags and on many of the subsequent restarts, Keselowski found himself in the unfortunate position of having to start in the outside line. The inside line is the preferred way around the tight Martinsville oval and, as a result of restarting on the outside, Keselowski surrendered a couple of spots initially before he gained them back once the field spread itself out.
At lap 441, Keselowski raced his way inside the top-five by passing the No. 29 car of Kevin Harvick. Fighting for every inch over the final laps, Keselowski found himself again on the outside of the final restart of the event. He was an innocent bystander in the incident between Earnhardt and Hamlin, but he took the biggest hit in the sequence as he fell from eighth to his finishing position of 17th.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, finished 14th in Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500.
Following the result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team fell one position to fourth place in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings.
“That’s racing on these short tracks,” said Keselowski. “It will come back around for the Miller Lite Dodge team. We got some good racing in the middle section of the race, got the good lanes that we needed, but at the end we just didn’t catch a break. We ended up on the outside for the last few restarts and that wasn’t the place to be. That’s just this style of racing. You can’t control your own fate. The car came to us, the track came to us. The guys had a good plan. Our Miller Lite Dodge was a top-10 car. We came up a few laps short.”
The eighth race for Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite team in the 2011 Chase for the Championship will be the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, November 6. Live coverage will begin at 3:00 pm ET on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 90.