DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished eighth in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) on Saturday night. Keselowski was involved in several incidents – both on the track and on pit road – but the team persevered and produced their eighth top-10 finish of 2012.
Keselowski qualified 10th for the 160-lap event with a lap of 46.910 seconds, or 191.857 miles per hour, around the 2.5-mile oval during the Friday afternoon qualifying session. However, the No. 14 car of Tony Stewart was determined to be in violation during the post-qualifying inspection process and had to start from the back of the field, which moved the Miller Lite Dodge to the ninth position at the drop of the green flag. The race began with the field bunched up in a pack around the DIS surface. Keselowski made his way up to the seventh position, where he moved into a single-file line around the bottom of the track. He radioed that his car began to build to a tight-handling condition off Turn 4 and, as a result, Keselowski fell back to the 10th position at lap 32.
Crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver down pit road, under the green flag, at lap 41 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Upon entering his pit stall it was discovered that the Miller Lite Dodge had a flat right front tire, which slowed the pit stop as the pit crew had to help pick up the right side to get it on the jack. When the pit stops cycled through at lap 47, Keselowski was scored in the 33rd position.
The pit stop sequence resulted in Keselowski falling off the lead pack. He began running single-file with the No. 14 of Stewart and the No. 34 car of David Ragan, in hopes the trio could run down the lead pack. Unfortunately the race stayed under the green flag and the three made little headway on this attempt. At the halfway point of the event, Keselowski was running in the 31st position.
The first caution flag of the night was displayed at lap 81 and Keselowski again brought his Dodge to the attention of his pit crew. After completing the right-side work, the No. 2 Dodge was hit from the rear by the No. 39 machine of Ryan Newman, who also made contact with the No. 5 car driven by Kasey Kahne and the No. 24 entry of Jeff Gordon. The contact resulted in severe right-rear damage to the Miller Lite Dodge, which took another trip down pit road for repairs before the race resumed at lap 86 with Keselowski scored in the 33rd position.
Once up to full speed, the work done to repair the right-rear damage began to come apart. NASCAR black-flagged the No. 2 car at lap 89, but a lap 91 caution gave the team an opportunity to fix the damage once again. With the repairs in place, the Miller Lite Dodge didn’t look like the fastest car on the track, but it began turning some very quick lap times despite a loose-handling condition. After restarting the race from the 33rd position at lap 96, Keselowski was able to race his way up to the 14th position at lap 106 before a multi-car wreck brought out the third caution of the day at lap 124. Wolfe brought his driver down pit road for a two-tire stop, which included a track bar adjustment, and the quick work by the Miller Lite pit crew resulted in Keselowski restarting the race from the fourth position at lap 131, his highest spot in the running order for the night.
Following the adjustments, Keselowski radioed that his car was still loose all around the DIS oval. As a result, he spun the Miller Lite Dodge on the exit of Turn 2 at lap 145, bringing out another caution flag. He was able to keep the machine off the wall, needing only four fresh tires and another track bar adjustment upon visiting pit road. After restarting from the 23rd position at lap 149, Keselowski lost several spots and could be found in the 30th position when another multi-car accident took place at lap 152. The accident damaged several cars in front of him and Keselowski was able to restart the race from the 10th spot at lap 159. Once again, many of the cars at the front of the field were involved in a large wreck on the last lap. Keselowski was able to find his way through the melee to secure an eighth-place finish on a wild night in Daytona.
Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr., finished 33rd in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400.
Following Saturday’s finish, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team moved to ninth in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings.
“Everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge team kept their heads up and worked hard when we began to have issues on the night,” said Keselowski. “We were probably fortunate that we weren’t in the lead pack for some of those big wrecks. For what the right rear looked like after the pit road incident, the car was still pretty fast. It was just a strange sequence of events there at the end and we were able to get an eighth-place finish out of it. A good points night when it could have been a bad one.”
Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will next race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 15, in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Coverage will be seen live beginning at 12:00 pm EST on TNT. The race will also be heard on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.