SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished ninth in the Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) on Sunday afternoon. The finish wrapped up a solid weekend for Keselowski at IMS as he also won the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the track on Saturday afternoon.
Keselowski qualified 22nd for the 160-lap event with a time of 49.959 seconds, or 180.148 miles per hour, around the flat, 2.5-mile oval during the Saturday afternoon qualifying session. As the race began, Keselowski had confidence in his car, so he elected to be patient while other competitors around him chose to begin the race aggressively. As a result, he settled into the 26th position before beginning to make his way through the field. He began turning top-15 lap times prior to entering pit road for the first time at lap 25, under the green flag. Crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to change all four tires and fill the Miller Lite Dodge with fuel, with no further adjustments, before Keselowski restarted the race from the 22nd position at lap 30.
As the action on the track resumed, Keselowski radioed that the balance of his car was the best it had been all weekend, but the aero-sensitivity kept him from advancing his position. With his driver happy with the handling of the car, Wolfe elected to keep Keselowski on the racing surface during a lap 41 caution period. This allowed Keselowski to lead the field back to the green flag when the race resumed at lap 46.
As eventual race winner, Jimmie Johnson, made his way to the front, Keselowski settled into the second position. He remained there until a green-flag pit stop at lap 60 brought him down pit road several laps ahead of the other competitors, as he and Wolfe stuck to their predetermined strategy. This placed the Miller Lite team on a different pit cycle than the rest of the field, but as the other drivers began to make their way down pit road, Keselowski once again assumed the race lead at lap 77. Despite a handling condition that was loose exiting the corners, Keselowski was able to turn some of the fastest laps on the racing surface.
Wolfe again called his driver down pit road at lap 90 – several laps before the other lead-lap cars – for a four-tire stop that included an air pressure adjustment. Prior to the rest of the field making their way down pit road, a caution flag was displayed at lap 94. This was just the break that the Miller Lite team needed as it allowed everyone else to make their pit stops, while also leveling the pit strategies to give the team much needed track position. Keselowski restarted the race from the lead at lap 97.
Unfortunately, Keselowski and the No. 2 machine made contact with the No. 78 car driven by Regan Smith while entering Turn 1. The incident resulted in Keselowski losing several positions before settling into the sixth position at lap 103. Back in traffic, with the right front fender slightly damaged, the Miller Lite Dodge was not handling exactly as Keselowski would have liked. A lap 125 caution allowed the team to make a four-tire change and pull out the right front fender damage. This proved to be the final stop of the day for Keselowski and he restarted the race in the 11th position at lap 130. Over the final 30 laps, a determined Keselowski gave it everything he had, but could only manage to make it up to the ninth position before crossing the famed yard of bricks. The result marked the third top-10 finish at the Brickyard in three career Cup Series starts for Keselowski, equaling last season’s ninth-place effort.
Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr., finished 16th in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
Following Saturday’s finish, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team improved one spot to ninth in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings.
“We had excellent pit strategy,” said Keselowski. “(Crew chief) Paul Wolfe and everyone on the Miller Lite team should be very proud of that. I just made too many mistakes. It’s hard to be mad with a top 10. I’m not mad, but no, I’m not happy. I want to win these races. I want to be a legit contender to win the big races and we were today. I just didn’t close it out. We had a strong shot at getting a top two or three and didn’t. I don’t have much more to add to that.”
Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will next race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 5, in the Pennsylvania 400. Coverage will be seen live beginning at 12:00 pm EST on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.