FORT WORTH, Texas – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished second in the AAA Texas 500 – the eighth race in the 2012 Chase for the Championship – at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) on Sunday evening. Keselowski and series points leader, Jimmie Johnson, provided fans with a thrilling finish as the two title contenders fought it out over the final laps of the race, before Johnson ultimately secured the victory.
With the result, Keselowski now trails Johnson by seven points in the Chase for the Championship standings with two races remaining in the season.
Keselowski began the race, scheduled for 334 laps, from the eighth position after posting a time of 28.491 seconds, or 189.534 miles per hour, around the 1.5-mile oval during the Friday afternoon qualifying session. From the drop of the green flag, Keselowski and the Miller Lite Dodge team displayed the speed necessary to challenge for the win. By lap 14, Keselowski was turning lap times faster than the race leaders. At lap 25, he entered the top five in the running order for the first time during the event. Crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver down pit road for the first stop of the day, under the green flag, at lap 48 for four-tire service that included a track bar adjustment to keep up with the changing track conditions. When the pit stops cycled through at lap 50, Keselowski found himself running in the sixth position.
As the race settled into its second run, Keselowski radioed that he was happy with the handling of his Miller Lite Dodge. He just needed to gain track position in order to get out of “dirty air.” Keselowski was able to race his way back inside the top five before coming to pit road for the second time at lap 92. Wolfe again called for four tires and fuel, along with adjustments to the track bar and air pressure. As the green flag pit stops played out at lap 96, Keselowski was positioned in second place following fast pit work by the No. 2 “Brew Crew.”
The race featured two, long yellow flag periods at laps 109 and 119 that slowed the competitors. When the race got back into rhythm following a lap 129 restart, the combination of the setting sunlight and oil dry material on track made visibility near zero at several portions of the circuit. Despite this condition, Keselowski was still able to lap the TMS oval as fast as anyone just prior to the fourth pit stop of the day at lap 166. Following a stop of four tires, fuel, track bar adjustment and the removal of a “tear-off” layer, Keselowski found himself once again running in the second position when the green-flag pit stops cycled through.
As the race moved past the halfway point, Keselowski became laser focused on getting his Miller Lite Dodge into the lead position as very little communication was heard over the team radio. Following a lap 191 restart, Keselowski pushed the No. 18 car of Kyle Busch into the lead past Johnson. This set up a lap-223 battle between Keselowski and Busch, which ended with a caution flag on that same lap before Keselowski could make the pass for the lead. Following a routine four-tire pit stop, Keselowski returned to the track in the third position.
At lap 236, Keselowski used a strong move to the outside of Busch to claim the lead for the second time during the event. He would hold the top spot before coming to pit road, under the yellow flag, at lap 276. While entering his pit stall, he locked up the front wheels on the Miller Lite Dodge. This resulted in the pit crew having to push Keselowski back before he could exit his pit box, which ultimately cost the team seven spots in the running order.
When the race resumed, Keselowski calmly went back to work making his way to the front of the field. At lap 299, he ran solidly inside the top five. After a caution on lap 310 ended any notion of the race ending with fuel mileage strategy, Wolfe elected to change only two tires on the Miller Lite machine when other competitors chose to make a four-tire stop. This put Keselowski into the race lead when the action resumed at lap 316.
In what proved to be some of the most thrilling racing of the Chase, Keselowski was able to hold onto his lead following a lap 327 restart as he and Johnson traded paint for several laps. However, the final caution period of the day at lap 330 proved to be too much for the worn left-side tires on the Miller Lite Dodge. Keselowski was unable to hold off Johnson as the race went one lap past its scheduled distance on a green-white-checkered flag finish.
Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., finished 17th in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
“I thought I had it but we kept getting all those yellows and just kept giving (Jimmie Johnson) more shots,” said Keselowski. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart and Jimmie did a great job on the last one. I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race and it didn’t seem right to wreck him. I ran him hard with the Miller Lite Dodge. We’re going to keep him honest. I know if we keep running like this that we won’t be beat.”
With the championship battle heating up, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team will next race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, November 11 in the AdvoCare 500 – the second-to-last race in the 2012 Chase for the Championship. Coverage of the event will be seen live beginning at 2:00 pm EST on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.