BRISTOL, Tenn. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 30th in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) on Saturday night. For the second-consecutive night at BMS, Keselowski was involved in an incident that forced the team several laps down and out of contention.
The finish ended a career-best streak of seven-consecutive top-10 finishes for Keselowski and ended his bid to become just the fifth driver to win three straight NSCS races at BMS.
Keselowski began the 500-lap race from the second position as the Friday evening time trial session was cancelled due to rain which resulted in the field being set based on the first practice session of the day. As the race began, Keselowski radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe that his car was too tight getting to the center of the high-banked BMS corners. As a result, he fell back to the fourth position, but was able to hold that spot through the first 50 laps.
While Keselowski and Wolfe expected the low line to be the preferred groove for the night, it became apparent early on that the top of the racetrack was going to serve as the fastest way around the half-mile oval. As the first run of the evening progressed, Keselowski noted that the handling condition of his Miller Lite Dodge began to improve. During a lap 85 caution period, Wolfe called his driver down pit road for the first time at lap 85 for track bar and air pressure adjustments, along with four tires and fuel. Following fast pit work by the No. 2 team, Keselowski restarted the race from the third position at lap 90.
In an attempt to keep up with the ultra-fast pace set by the race leaders, Keselowski decided to work around the top groove of the racetrack as the action resumed. However, his car was too loose up top and he fell back to the ninth position before another caution flag flew over the field at lap 123. Wolfe kept his driver on the racing surface under this caution period, along with a subsequent caution at lap 148, to pick up valuable track position. As a result, Keselowski found himself running in the third position when the race resumed at lap 159.
The Miller Lite Dodge made its way to pit road for the second time of the night at lap 193, again under the yellow flag, for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. After several cars elected not to pit, Keselowski restarted the race from the 16th position, but quickly raced his way back inside the top 10 by the halfway point in the race. Unfortunately, at lap 263, Keselowski was benignly tapped from the rear and made contact with the outside wall. Keselowski reported that the impact had knocked the front toe out of alignment, but he was able to continue. However, before he could nurse his Miller Lite Dodge to the next pit stop, Keselowski was again hit from behind, sending him into the inside wall. The resulting damage forced the team behind the wall for extensive repairs. The Miller Lite crew would get their driver back on the racetrack at lap 336, but multiple laps down to the race leaders.
A very determined driver and crew continued to work to try to gain as many points as possible before the checkered flag, but were unable to do so. Keselowski ended the event 66 laps down in the 30th position.
Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr., finished 34th in Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race.
Following Sunday’s result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team drop to seventh in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings.
“Something happened to the 55 car, Brian Vickers, and he checked-up,” said Keselowski. “I don’t know if he had an engine problem or something of that nature and it just checked-up the whole line. I couldn’t go anywhere and got hit from behind and it put me into the fence. Not really anybody’s fault. It’s just a combination of factors of the way the racing is now here. We got caught up in it.”
Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will next race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 2 in the Advocare 500. Coverage of the event will be seen live beginning at 6:30 pm EST on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.