CONCORD, N.C. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished fifth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) on Sunday night. He and the Miller Lite team displayed great resilience as they had to overcome a pit road speeding penalty and an incident on pit lane to record their fourth top-five finish of 2012.
Keselowski started the 400-lap event from the 24th position based on his qualifying lap of 28.591 seconds, or 188.871 miles per hour, around the 1.5-mile oval during the Thursday night qualifying session. With the race starting in the sunlight, but finishing at night under the lights, crew chief Paul Wolfe set the No. 2 car up to adequately handle the transition. Keselowski immediately began his march forward from the drop of the green flag. He was turning lap times as fast as the drivers in the top five as he made his way into the top-15 cars at lap 21. On the first pit stop of the day, which occurred under the green flag at lap 42, Keselowski radioed to Wolfe that he was very pleased with his car and he didn’t need any chassis adjustments. Following the four-tire pit stop, Keselowski found himself running in the 10th position as the stops cycled through at lap 48.
The beginning of the race featured an extended, green-flag run, during which the Miller Lite Dodge exhibited outstanding long-run speed. Keselowski was faster than the race leaders late in each run, which led to Wolfe making only slight air pressure adjustments to the Goodyear radial tires. The first yellow flag of the day flew at lap 112. After visiting his pit stall for four tires and fuel, Keselowski was caught for speeding exiting the pits. He was forced to restart the race from the 25th position when the race resumed at lap 118.
Once again, Keselowski showed he had a car that could contend for the win as he began to regain the track position lost as a result of the pit road speeding penalty. By lap 170 he was knocking on the door of the top 10, despite a Miller Lite Dodge that had built a loose-handling condition. Wolfe continued to make only air pressure adjustments as he expected the loose-handling racecar to come around after the sun set completely, which occurred near the halfway point of the race with Keselowski running in the seventh position.
Following a lap 264 pit stop, Keselowski made contact with the rear bumper of the No. 14 car of Tony Stewart as he was leaving his pit stall. The contact spun Stewart around on pit road and damaged the nose of the No. 2 Dodge. The damage cost Keselowski slightly on the stopwatch, but the crew did great work in making repairs to get the balance of the car back to normal. Keselowski entered the top five at lap 358, following the final round of pit stops, and was able to maintain his position there until the checkered flag.
Penske Racing teammate, AJ Allmendinger, finished 33rd in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
Following Sunday’s finish, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team are ranked 11th in the driver and owner point standings.
“You know, I look at tonight and we had a fast Miller Lite Dodge and really fought track position most of the night,” said Keselowski. “We started to get it and I ran into Tony on pit road. He said it was his fault and I say it’s my fault; we probably both agree that it could have been avoided someway. It’s one of those deals and I guess that’s why they call it racing because things like that happen. That little bit of damage held my car back a little but a good night to come home fifth. Good car, a good couple weeks here in Charlotte, some good runs; just strong and solid and I’m proud of that.”
Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will next race at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, June 3, in the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks. Coverage will be seen live beginning at 12:30 pm EST on the FOX network. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.