Back in the swing of points racing, Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team face their longest challenge of the season: the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
As the race places a true test on man and machine, it perfectly suits his style. The Red, White and Blue Deuce qualified 10th for Sunday night’s main event, and he’s ready for the marathon that awaits under the lights.
“We’ve got a big race this weekend, the Coca-Cola 600,” Brad said. “We are really fast with both Penske cars, I feel like we got a shot at it.”
His first Charlotte Memorial Day race came in his first full season with Team Penske, aboard the No. 12 Dodge. The weekend surely didn’t start the way BK wanted with a violent qualifying crash where his Charger charged into a section of the wall without the energy absorbing SAFER barriers. Through some level-headed driving and safe strategies, the Michigander was able to slice his way from the back through about half of the field to a P20 result.
Qualifications in the following year were much smoother as Kes paved the way to his second career Coors Light Pole award. Nearly 600 miles later, the race came down to a late race restart, slotting the Deuce in fourth on the outside lane, when line leader Kasey Kahne’s No. 4 car didn’t roll – effectively ending Brad’s night just a bit too soon.
“Just disappointing,” he said on the result. “The Miller Lite Dodge was fast all night. We started on the pole. We ran in the top-10 most of the night. The crew did a great job. It was a total team effort. Unfortunately, we ended up three miles short of a top-five finish.”
While that race did steal a solid Top 5 from the team, they earned it back the next season as Kes claimed a fifth-place result in the Cup Series’ longest race.
Collectively through the years, Brad’s led 59 laps in his six May Charlotte races, but the final circuit has eluded him.
“The Coca-Cola 600 just has this tremendous legacy in our sport of being the longest race, one of the toughest, most grueling races on a racecar driver, which makes it very difficult to earn a win at, and very special,” BK said.
In 2017’s four 1.5-mile track races so far, the Miller 2 Crew has a worst finish of sixth—including a victory in Atlanta, a Coors Light Pole in Las Vegas, and a P2 finish in the most recent of those races in Kansas.
Brad hopes that he can outlast the competition and deliver Ford’s first Coca-Cola 600 win since 2002.
“It’s a test of both man and machine. It can wear you down. You need to be prepared for it.”
The Coca-Cola 600 kicks off on Sunday, May 27th at 6p.m. ET, live on FOX.
DOUBLE DEUCE MARATHON
In addition to running the 600-miler on Sunday, Kes is also competing in the preliminary 300 mile event on Saturday in the XFINITY Series.
Making his fourth series start of 2017, the 22 Crew remains winless, but knows it can change at an instant.
“We’re getting stronger, and soon hope to be where we were [in 2015],” Brad said.
Over time, BK has placed some stellar numbers on the board in his NXS career in the Queen City. Posting three wins, seven Top 5’s, and 13 Top 10’s in 17 starts, he’s been able to bring his ride home in a respectable position more often than not.
The first of his Charlotte triumphs came in his 2010 Championship season. Leading a total of 46 laps that night, he took the lead on a restart with seven to go and never looked back.
Also waving an American flag in the May 2012 race, he led 67 circuits en route to the victory that night. The most recent win in 2014 paved the way to Roger Penske’s second consecutive NXS Owners’ Championships, something The Captain covets.
Team Penske typically operates as a single car function in the second tier series, but this weekend they’ve enlisted support from the No. 12 entry with Ryan Blaney behind the wheel. In the first practice session, both were quick enough to place Top 5 speeds, as well as laying down some frontrunning 10 Lap Average speeds.
The longest weekend of racing begins with the Hisense 300, airing at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday May 27th, live on FOX Sports 1.