Bouncing off some mile-and-a-half track success in Atlanta and Las Vegas, Brad Keselowski and the 2 Crew are prepared to make their second stop of the #NASCARGoesWest tour at Phoenix International Raceway.
Though winless at the mile-long facility in the Arizona desert, Brad remains optimistic for the Camping World 500 on Sunday afternoon.
“Phoenix has been a pretty good track for us the last half dozen or so times we’ve run it. We’ve run up front, led laps, or at least been solid Top 5, solid Top 10s and we want to keep that streak going.”
In BK’s seven Phoenix spring races, he’s averaged a finishing position just outside the Top 10 (11.14), leaving with an end result outside the Top 15 only twice. His first full Cup season produced a P16 finish, while a blown left-rear tire last year relegated him to 29th, not indicative of the Top 10 performance they put on all day long. Amongst all 15 PIR races, Brad has managed to log 119 laps out front, and finished in the Top 10 just under half of those times.
Unlike the first three tracks visited by the Monster Energy Cup Series this year, where you start at PIR may indicate where you finish. As a fast, and relatively flat short track with a single groove, passing is at a premium, meaning speed on Friday can make Sunday that much better.
That could be good news for the 2 Crew. Dating back to the 2012 fall event, Kes has started his Deuce in the Top 20 for every Phoenix race, including a 2014 Pole and a second place start later that year. Qualifying at Phoenix is slated for 7:45 p.m. PT on FOX Sports 1.
“This is really an intense qualifying format and with the sun going down this track picks up a lot of speed,” he says. “It’s there.”
In his last visit to Phoenix, Team Penske unloaded a fast Miller Lite Ford, and while running in the Top 5 in the middle stage of the race, pit road issues plagued the rest of his race.
“The loss of track position ruined our day, which is unfortunate because I think we could’ve challenged for the win,” BK said.
Brad eventually settled for a 14th place finish while escaping carnage, teammate Joey Logano scored the win and punched his ticket to Homestead-Miami’s Round of 4, proving that Team Penske has the equipment to get it done in the desert.
For the third consecutive week, the No. 2 will hit the track with a different paint scheme, this time featuring the Alliance Truck Parts colors. With his win in Atlanta, Brad has reached Victory Lane with all of his current Penske sponsors (Miller Lite, Wurth, Detroit Genuine Parts, Autotrader) – except for Alliance, something he hopes to change.
While the Michigan native hasn’t found his Arizona breakthrough in the Cup level just yet, he found a share of success in the XFINITY Series. The fall 2014 event appeared to be another display of Kyle Busch domination, but on the last lap, Brad swiped the win. Making a dive on Busch into the first turn, the No. 22 Mustang stuck and held the top spot for the rest of the lap.
In last week’s Cup event, it was seemingly the opposite for Kes as a hub failure with just two laps left robbed him of a chance at back-to-back victories. Scoring a P5 finish and the points that go with it, the afternoon of racing was anything but a loss for the 2 Crew — it gave them the Monster Energy Cup Series points lead. At the finish of every Stage thus far, Brad has earned valuable points. Currently leading by one marker over Kyle Larson, BK hopes to increase the gap even further this weekend.
The Camping World 500 is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 19, live on FOX.