LONG POND, Pa. – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished 18th in the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday afternoon. The driver of the “Blue Deuce” overcame pit-lane speed penalties and power issues to score an 18th-place finish to move into the top-10 in points.
Keselowski started the 160-lap event from the 31st position based on his qualifying lap of 51.464 seconds and a speed of 174.880 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile tri-oval during Saturday’s qualifying session. At the start of the race, the field took the green flag and didn’t quite complete a lap before the first caution flag of the day was displayed on lap 1. Before the caution flag was displayed, Keselowski passed three cars and was scored in the 28th position.
During the caution period, crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver to pit lane after Keselowski informed him that he was concerned about his tires and grille after having to take evasive action to avoid the incident that caused the caution. The Penske Dodge crew gave their driver four fresh Goodyear tires, a clean tear-off and a sweep of the grille.
At lap 5 the green flag brought the field back up to speed with the Miller Lite Dodge scored 34th in the running order. Keselowski wasted no time making his way up to 20th place in just eight laps as the yellow flag was displayed again at lap 13. Due to a lengthy cleanup of the racing surface from the incident that caused the caution NASCAR called a competition caution at lap 17. During this caution period the No. 2 Miller Lite team elected to stay on track in order to gain track position. When the green flag signaled a return to racing Keselowski was positioned in second-place – his top running order of the race.
The ensuing laps would prove to be the longest green-flag run of the day lasting until lap 63 when the yellow flag was once again displayed. At this point the No. 2 Dodge was scored in the 27th position after Keselowski had to pit under green flag conditions and was then assessed a pit lane speeding penalty. Keselowski’s penalty would prove to be one of many that were handed out over the course of the race as an unusually high number of competitors were hit with the same infraction.
By lap 87 Keselowski had worked his way up to the 16th position when he reported that there was smoke in the cockpit of the car. Over the next few laps he informed the crew that the car was behaving as if there were a problem with the rear-end gear as it was unsettled entering the Pocono Raceway corners. At lap 92 the driver of the Miller Lite Dodge radioed in that the condition had improved, but it was still intermittent.
Wolfe called his driver down pit road at lap 97 for a green flag stop during which the Miller Lite crew changed four tires and added fuel to the No.2 machine. At lap 100 Keselowski radioed that the engine would not run at full throttle and he had to run in the three-quarter throttle range to keep his car under power. During the next few laps he tried cycling the power to reset the electronics, but that did not cure the problem. While Keselowski was dealing with these issues he lost a lap to the leaders.
The engine issue disappeared at lap 114, but not for long as at lap 117 Keselowski informed the crew the issue had returned. At lap 123 a much-needed caution flag for the Miller Lite team was displayed. This gave the crew an opportunity to put together a plan to address the power challenges. Wolfe told his driver to stay out on track during the caution to get back on the lead lap and then pit after taking the green flag. When Keselowski pitted, the crew disconnected the throttle position sensor that they suspected was causing the problems with the engine and they also gave him fresh tires and fuel.
Disconnecting the sensor returned the No. 2 Dodge to full power, but once again Keselowski was given a pit-lane speed violation as he left the pits. This resulted in yet another drive through penalty and the loss of a lap to the race leaders. Keselowski kept his head in the game and his foot on the gas as he raced his way into position for the “lucky dog award” and he was rewarded with a late-race caution flag that allowed him to return to lead-lap racing.
At lap 152 the green flag waved for the final time of the race with Keselowski scored in 24th place. Over the final eight laps of the race he passed numerous cars and brought home a hard-fought 18th-place finish.
Penske Racing teammate, AJ Allmendinger, finished 31st in Sunday’s Pocono 400.
Following Sunday’s finish, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team are ranked 10th in the Cup Series driver point standings.
““My team did a great job through all the adversity today with the pit road stuff that went on with the timing lines,” said Keselowski. “We got (caught) twice on that; not sure what was going on there, so we’ll try and figure that out. Then we had some problems with the ignition and we had to work on that. I don’t think we got it fixed but we got it drivable. And at the very end, we lost brakes (smiles). It was just one fight after another. I could have done a better job. I think our car was actually really solid, maybe not a race-winning car but certainly a top 10-, top-five car but (we) just didn’t get to show it with the Miller Lite Dodge.”
Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will next race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 17, in the Quicken Loans 400. Coverage will be seen live beginning at 12:00 pm EST on TNT. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.