AVONDALE, Ariz. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished ninth in the Great Clips 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on Saturday afternoon. In the final NNS race of the season for the 2010 NNS champion, Keselowski was able to assume the lead in the event before an issue on a lap 154 restart relegated him to the ninth place finish.
Keselowski began the 200-lap race from the sixth position, based on his lap of 27.275 seconds, or 131.989 miles per hour, around the one-mile oval during the Saturday morning qualifying session. As the race began, Keselowski noted that the handling of his Discount Tire Dodge was not to his liking, due to the condition of the racing surface. However, as the track began to take rubber he began to work his way toward the front of the field. Keselowski would make his first pit stop of the day, under the yellow flag, while running in the sixth position at lap 33. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins would change left-side tires only as it was that side that saw the most wear on the recently-repaved PIR surface. Keselowski would restart the race from the second position at lap 38.
Following the left-side tire change, Keselowski radioed that the handling on the No. 22 Dodge started the run too loose. He was still able to maintain a position inside the top-three cars while waiting on the handling to improve, which seemed to be every lap. In one of several close calls on the day, the No. 44 car came down on Keselowski and made contact at lap 69, sending that car spinning and bringing out a caution. There was no resulting damage to the Discount Tire machine, but Bullins did take this opportunity to bring his driver down pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments to the track bar and air pressure. The Penske Racing driver restarted the race from the seventh position at lap 75, as the first car with four fresh Goodyear radials.
As the race moved past the halfway point, Keselowski had made his way up to the second position. A lap 120 caution allowed the team to make its third pit stop of the day, again electing to change left-side tires only. This strategy allowed Keselowski to assume the lead when the race resumed at lap 125. He would hold the top spot until a lap 154 restart. Upon making his way into Turn 1, Keselowski’s Dodge drifted high, up the track, allowing several cars to make their way by. When he was able to get settled back in, he found himself running in the 13th position. He was only able to make his way back to the ninth position before taking the checkered flag in a race that concluded with a green-white-checkered finish.
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish finished 14th in the Great Clips 200 on Saturday afternoon.
Following Saturday’s result, Keselowski and the No. 22 team remain sixth in the NNS owner point standings.
“We just didn’t quite have the speed in the Discount Tire Dodge at the end of the race,” said Keselowski. “The 18 car was just faster and he beat me. Not the finish we wanted in my last Nationwide Series race of the year, but it’s been a good season and definitely one to be proud of.”
The No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team will next compete at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, November 17, in the Ford 300 – the final race of the 2012 season – with driver Ryan Blaney. Coverage will air live beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio Channel 90.