Through six Monster Energy Cup Series races in 2017, Brad Keselowski has already notched two victories on tracks where he had never previously won, and he wants to seal the deal for a third time in this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“We’ve been as close there[Texas] as we have been at Martinsville in the past,” Brad said after his win last week at Martinsville Speedway. “Right now I feel we can win anywhere.”
While Brad has found a share of near-victories at the 1.5-mile quad oval, the notebook goes out the window as the aged surface has been replaced with fresh asphalt. Drivers who tested on the reconfigured TMS surface have compared it to Kentucky Speedway after its repave, which bodes well for the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team. BK led 75 of 267 laps in the debut of the new Kentucky surface—including the last one.
The new track layout features reduced banking in Turn 1 and 2, making the circuit drastically different on both ends. Compared to a demanding track like Darlington Raceway in that sense, BK & Co. are leaders at adapting to tricky tracks and changing conditions.
Along with that, team leader and crew chief Paul Wolfe will return to the track this weekend as their post-Phoenix penalty appeal is set for Wednesday, April 12. After watching Wolfe lead the Miller 2 Crew to victory a week ago at The Paperclip, team owner Roger Penske understands just how important it is for his crew chief to be on the box and adding to his Playoff notebook.
“Look, I need him on that box every weekend,” Penske said. “I told him I’d pay him to be on that box every weekend not to be sitting in his motor home looking at a bunch of monitors. Really the strategy was that we’d take a race off last week and then make the appeal and I guess we’ll be coming back here in a week or so, so it was good to get the experience here on this track, obviously, because it’ll be in the Playoffs.”
Currently holding two victories to his credit, Kes boasts 10 Playoff points and wants to grow that number as high as he can before the checkered flag flies in Richmond to signal the end of the regular season. Currently, his 10 points are the most of any driver, one more than Martin Truex Jr. in second place with nine. Additionally, the 2 Crew sits 34 points outside of the regular season standings, which can provide an additional Playoff point boost after the first 26 events.
Drivers are able to earn Playoff points by winning Stages (at one point a piece), which has eluded Brad thus far. But the big point boost comes from leading the final lap, which BK has done twice to the tune of five points apiece, and he’s looking to add five more on Sunday.
“Texas has been a track very similar to Martinsville for us where we’ve led a lot of laps and been in front,” the Michigan native said. “I’ve made some mistakes at the end and haven’t brought it home. That’s something we’re certainly going to carry into [Texas].”
With the record Pole speed at 199.299 mph in 2014, the new racing surface, paired with the 2017 aero package and smaller spoiler will entertain fans with some insane straightaway speeds. To see if Kes can go back-to-back, tune into the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. ET, live on FOX.