United with crew chief Paul Wolfe, Brad Keselowski was able to leave the newly paved and configured Texas Motor Speedway with a sixth place finish, and a solid page for their Playoff notebook.
The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion was fast once again, as it started in the top five and remained right around its starting point throughout the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. With a strong machine, Brad navigated the newly repaved 1.5-mile track, leading four laps en route to his sixth straight finish of sixth or better.
“We just kind of seemed stuck in that fifth or sixth place range for most of the race,” Brad said. “We were fighting a few things and got a little better there at the end and maybe had a little bit more in the tank there if there was a little bit of time left but we just ran out of laps.”
The 500-mile afternoon started from P5 on the preferred inner line, as it allowed Brad to jump up a row to third before the lap 3 debris caution. On the following restart, he put the ‘Team’ in Team Penske as he let his two teammates – Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney down in front of his Deuce. Passing Clint Bowyer for P4 on lap 26, Kes finished there before the lap 30 Competition Caution was waved. Pitting for right sides and fuel, the stop dropped the 2 Crew a spot, providing them with the inner line once more.
Restarting fifth on lap 36, BK held the spot until the lap 61 when he overdrove Turn 1, losing positions to Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray. On a mission, the 2012 Champion drove past Logano and Bowyer to finish the Stage 1 in fifth. The 12.6-second full-service stop resulted in another two-spot drop, lining him up in seventh place on the lap 93 restart. Instantly, the Miller Lite Ford motored by points leader Kyle Larson and Erik Jones for fifth. But on lap 104, another slight bobble in Turn 1 let the drivers behind capitalize, as Larson, Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott drove by, putting Kes back to ninth. A lap 122 debris caution let Wolfe put a fresh set of rubber on the Miller Lite Ford while many other teams only elected to replace two tires. Taking the green flag from 11th, he was able to climb as high as P8 when Stage 2 ended on lap 170. Kes earned 13 stage points for a total of 40 on the afternoon.
Staying out under the Stage 2 yellow, it prepared Keselowski for a second-place restart next to Kevin Harvick on lap 178. Thirty laps into the run, another small wiggle sent him back to fourth as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Truex passed by. Pitting under green on lap 224, the 2 Crew changed all four tires and filled the tank with Sunoco racing fuel. A few laps into the run, BK radioed in saying the car was the worst it had been all day, saying it felt like 1,000 pounds of air in each tire.
Pitting under green again for the next scheduled round of stops, the team lost two spots to Larson and Johnson, relegating them to sixth. The final yellow of the afternoon came out on lap 299 for debris. Realizing they didn’t have the outright speed to win, Wolfe decided to call his driver in for a fresh set of tires. The last-ditch effort led the Miller 2 Crew to finish P6, claiming their sixth Top 10 in a row.
Following the race, Brad voiced his approval for the TMS repave, as a second groove eventually came in.
Thank you https://t.co/qy60KKIbPc
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) April 9, 2017
Entering a rare off weekend for Easter, Brad & Co. will return for the next Monster Energy Cup Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m. ET, live on FOX. As a two-time winner at The World’s Fastest Half Mile, the 2 Crew wants to leave with their third Bristol win, and a third triumph of the season.