Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), picked up his third win of 2011 in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) on Saturday night. The finish marked the fourth-consecutive top-three result for the Penske Racing driver. Keselowski's average finish of 1.75 over the last four events is the best in the Cup Series during that period.
Keselowski began the 500-lap event from the eighth position after posting a lap of 15.683 seconds, or 122.349 miles per hour, during Friday's qualifying session. From the drop of the green flag, Keselowski began moving his way to front and he moved inside the top five by lap 13. He continued his march to the front of the field by consistently turning some of the fastest laps on the track during the first 30 laps of the race. However, Keselowski narrowly escaped an incident with the No. 17 car driven by Matt Kenseth during a lap 32 race restart. Kenseth made contact with the left front fender of the "Blue Deuce" when his car got loose underneath Keselowski on the exit of Turn 4. Despite the slight contact, Keselowski was able to continue.
Crew chief Paul Wolfe brought his driver down pit road for the first time on lap 106 as the field was under the yellow flag. Keselowski, who was very happy with the balance of his car, told Wolfe he needed no adjustments and the Miller Lite Dodge left pit road with only four fresh tires and two cans of fuel. Good work by the No. 2 pit crew saw Keselowski restart the race from the second position on lap 111.
With Keselowski doing a great job in managing his Goodyear tires, Wolfe elected to make a long run following the first round of pit stops. Keselowski did not visit pit road again until a green-flag pit stop at lap 241. He was able to maintain his position inside the top-five cars during the run, as Wolfe developed a plan to get the team to the end of the race. Small air pressure adjustments were made at lap 241, in an effort to alleviate a "numb" feeling that Keselowski began to experience as the race moved past the halfway point.
As the green-flag pit stops cycled through at lap 251, Keselowski found himself running in the seventh position, his lowest spot in the running order throughout the event. By the time the caution flag waved for the fourth time at lap 298, Keselowski was back in his familiar top-five territory. He radioed to Wolfe that the handling on his car had freed up over the last green-flag run, but he was confident that it was the fast way around the track on that particular night.
On the final restart of the night at lap 421, Keselowski was able to get around then race leader, Martin Truex Jr., to assume the lead. While Truex and the No. 24 car of Jeff Gordon were racing side-by-side behind him, Keselowski was able to drive out to a three-second lead before lap traffic helped cut that time down to one second before he crossed the finish line.
With the win, Keselowski captured the championship in the DIRECTV Head2Head Knockout challenge. As a result, the Paralyzed Veterans of America will receive over $200,000 as they were designated as Keselowski's charity of choice.
Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, finished 17th in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race
Following Saturday's result, Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team improved one position to 11th in the Cup Series driver and owner point standings. The team solidified its hold on the No. 1 wild card position for the "Chase for the Championship."
"An awesome Miller Lite Dodge," said an excited Keselowski in Victory Lane."An awesome race team in Penske Racing. The night race at Bristol! This is the race that Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt win. It's the race of champions. I can't believe it. There are races that pay more. There are races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all. We won it!"