Overton's 400

07.30.2017 / POCONO RACEWAY

Strategy Earns BK Series-High 11th Top 5 Finish

By | 2017-08-01T19:10:34+00:00 07.31.2017|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Strategy Earns BK Series-High 11th Top 5 Finish

With the Monster Energy Cup Series regular season winding down and the playoffs looming, strong points days are at a premium—and on Sunday afternoon at Pocono Raceway, Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford team earned a terrific points performance despite lacking some speed.

The Black and Yellow Deuce didn’t have elite burst, but Paul Wolfe and Co. were flawless in the pits while BK executed on the track, and together, they strategized their way to a fifth-place finish in the Overton’s 400, allowing the 2 Crew to once again crack the Top 5 in the MENCS standings.

“A strategy day for sure,” BK said, reflecting on the race. “Our Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion was okay, decent speed. I thought we had the best strategy out there, we just needed a little bit more speed.”

The Sunday morning qualifying session sent Brad off from 11th position when the Overton’s 400 went green and it didn’t take long from there for strategy to come into play. The 2 Crew has found its share of success in the past on The Tricky Triangle, a unique 2.5-mile triangular track, by strategizing in ways to put them off sequence with opponents and Wolfe made it clear that would be the plan from the start. The 2 crew chief called Brad in for a green-flag stop at lap 15 to get the Deuce moving in the right direction.

As a result of the call, Brad cycled out near the front of the field and finished Stage 1 in the fourth position, earning seven points. Brain power nearly earned the No. 2 Ford team a Stage win thanks to a fuel-only pit call by Wolfe after an early caution in Stage 2. However, an untimely yellow flag late in the stage forced BK and Co. to settle for second-place at the end of the stage, and a cool nine points.

The beginning of the third stage saw the Alliance Truck Parts machine show its best short-run speed of the day. After restarting 11th, Brad used four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel to power his way back into the Top 5 in just one lap.

The green flag remained out for the entire third stage, just when Brad and Co. were hoping for one final stroke of strategic luck. Kes stayed out as long as possible before making his final pit stop under green, but that crucial caution never came. Fortunately, Brad fought his way back into the Top 5 by the time the checkered flag flew.

Kes recorded his third straight Top 10 finish and his 11th Top 5 finish this year, putting him on pace for a career-best number of finishes in the lead quintet. He leads all Cup Series drivers with 11 Top 5s and 14 Top 10s on the season. He also has now logged five consecutive Top 5 finishes at Pocono Raceway.

Brad spoke after the race about the strength of the Toyotas relative to Fords, admitting that he and his team have work to do with just six races remaining until the playoffs. Kyle Busch picked up his first win of the season as one of six Toyota drivers in the top nine finishers. Three Ford drivers—Kevin Harvick (P2), Brad (P5) and Clint Bowyer (P6)—were the only ones to break up the Toyota party up front.

As the engineers look to make up ground in the shop, Brad will continue to fight for playoff points. He’s currently in a three-way tie for third with Busch and Kyle Larson with 13 playoff points.

Additionally, positions in the final Cup standings will pay off in a big way. The 2 Crew had a great day in that regard, earning 48 points—second only to Busch’s 50—to vault to fifth, which would equate to six playoff points if the season ended today.

However, there are still six more chances for BK and Co. to gain ground and points going into the postseason. The next challenge is the second and final road course on the Cup Series schedule, Watkins Glen International. Brad has made a name as one of the Cup Series’ drivers on the upstate New York road course. He boasts five finishes of seventh or better in seven starts at WGI. He’s also fresh off a third-place finish earlier this season at the series’s other road course, Sonoma Raceway—his best finish ever at the track.

The I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen is set for a 3 p.m. ET start, Sunday, Aug. 6 on NBC Sports Network.