Brad Keselowski’s late-race rally Sunday evening at Martinsville Speedway came up short of landing the driver of the Dent Wizard Ford in victory lane and a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4. Keselowski finished third and fell eight points short of racing for a championship next week at Phoenix Raceway.
The first stage was uneventful and productive for Keselowski. He ran among the top-five throughout the segment and claimed a fifth-place finish when it ended on lap 130. The balance on Keselowski’s Mustang was loose on entry and tight near corner exit. He pitted for four tires and an air pressure adjustment during the stage caution and restarted fourth on lap 140.
The handling characteristics of the No. 2 Ford stayed much the same during Stage 2. Keselowski still needed to turn better near the exit, but he brushed that aside to run consistently inside the top-10, scoring an eighth-place finish when the segment concluded on lap 260. He and Kyle Busch twice waged an entering battle for positions during the stage with Keselowski passing Busch for the position in the closing laps of the segment. Keselowski pitted for four tires and a track bar adjustment under caution on lap 264 and lined up ninth when the race went green on lap 269.
Stage 3 began as a struggle for Keselowski and the Dent Wizard team as they tried to improve the handling characteristics of their Mustang. After three pit stops, the adjustments by crew chief Jeremy Bullins brought the car to life with just over 100 laps to go. Keselowski restarted 13th on lap 384 and from there the march to the front was on. On lap 391, he was inside the top-10, and on lap 423, he had climbed into the top-five. Bullins made the call to pit on lap 438 for Keselowski’s final stop of the race. The 2 Crew responded with a fast pit stop that kept Keselowski in contention. By lap 460, Keselowski was up to third, and he briefly ran second before settling into fourth position as the event drew to a close. The final caution on lap 495 pushed the race into NASCAR Overtime and set up a frantic green-white-checkered finish. Keselowski restarted third for the two-lap dash but couldn’t get closer to the front before the checkered flag waved.
“We gave it all we had. We just needed to be a little bit faster in stage two to get us a handful of points and be closer, and then at the end, I was just too loose. I just couldn’t quite get it perfectly tweaked in, but all in all, a pretty good run,” said Keselowski.
“We all just threw everything we had at it. I felt we were getting closer at the end. Jeremy Bullins and the Dent Wizard team really dialed the thing in as close as we could get, but that was just all we had.”