Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), scored his series-leading fifth win of the 2012 season in the AAA 400 – the third race in the 2012 Chase for the Championship – at Dover International Speedway (DIS) on Sunday afternoon. The victory is his second in three races to start NASCAR’s playoff format. Keselowski now has won nine career NSCS races at seven different venues.
With the result, Keselowski now leads the series standings by five points over Jimmie Johnson. He has produced an average finish of 2.67 over the first three races of the Chase for the Championship.
Keselowski started the 400-lap race from the 10th position after his time of 22.763 seconds, or 158.151 miles per hour, around the one-mile, concrete oval during the Saturday afternoon qualifying session. When the race began, it was evident that the Miller Lite Dodge was a car that could contend for the win. When other competitors began to experience falloff in their lap times, Keselowski maintained a consistent pace. He radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe that his car was a little tight all around the DIS oval, but it was manageable. He displayed excellent speed on corner exit, which is key to running well at Dover.
While many of the lead lap cars began making green-flag pit stops, Wolfe kept his driver on the racing surface with the leaders, running in the sixth position. When the caution flag was displayed at lap 69, it caught a majority of the field one lap down. This dynamic would last for the remainder of the race as no more than 11 cars would get back on the lead lap before the checkered flag. This caution period gave Wolfe an opportunity to call for air pressure and wedge adjustments to keep up with the changing track conditions. Keselowski restarted the race from the sixth position at lap 77.
As the race resumed, Keselowski radioed that he lost a touch of rear-end stability with the adjustments. However, he was able to maintain his sixth-place position until the field began making green-flag pit stops. He would assume the lead at lap 149 before making his way to the attention of the Miller Lite crew at lap 151 for another pit stop of four tires, fuel, and air and wedge adjustments. The team narrowly escaped disaster as they had a jack malfunction on the pit stop. After completing the stop with a second jack, Keselowski was able to get back out on the track in front of the race leader to stay on the lead lap.
After driving away from the race leader, Keselowski radioed that the balance on the car was perfect. He was able to turn lap times two tenths of a second faster than the field as he battled to keep his position until another caution flag would be displayed. He received that caution at lap 179. This placed him back at the front of the field, after his third pit stop of the day for four tires and fuel. Keselowski restarted the race from the sixth position at lap 185.
During the third 100-lap segment, Keselowski solidified his position as one of the cars to beat by making his way into the top five at lap 187. He would not drop below that position for the remainder of the race. Again the balance on the Miller Lite Dodge was “perfect,” especially later in the run when Keselowski would begin to make up time on the stopwatch.
The team would make its final pit stop at lap 311. Wolfe would again prescribe air pressure and wedge adjustments, in addition to changing all four tires and insuring the car was packed with fuel. Keselowski restarted from the third position at lap 316, thanks to a great pit stop by the Miller Lite crew. Known as one of the best at saving fuel, Keselowski went into fuel-save mode early in the run. This paid off at the end as the other leaders either had to pit for extra fuel, or were forced to back off the throttle and let him pass. With enough fuel in the tank to do a victory burnout, Keselowski cruised to a 1.07 second victory over Jeff Gordon.
Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish, Jr. finished 25th in Sunday’s AAA 400.
“I was really proud of the effort by everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge,” said Keselowski. “We were certainly a lot stronger than what we've been here in years past. I feel we were really strong here this time around. As the race went on, we slowly worked our way up from the 10th starting position. We were up to fourth. My pit crew had a great stop there on the last stop of the race and that put us in position to really capitalize on good strategy and execution. Together we were able to manage our fuel very well, which is important as anything else in racing these days. As you saw, it came together at the end for a victory.”
Penske Racing PR