By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
FORT WORTH, Texas – Brad Keselowski kept his championship hopes alive after salvaging a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 33-year-old Michigan native nearly saw his chances evaporate moments after the drop of the green when Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota Camry washed up the track going into Turn 1 and cut the left rear tire of Keselowski’s No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion. The incident hurt both drivers as they came down pit road and fell behind the field, which in Keselowski’s case put him a lap down.
Despite strong pace, he was unlucky with being in position for the free pass for Stage 1. In fact, it wasn’t until Lap 94 of 334 that he managed to get level with the rest of the field.
From there, he just began to climb methodically, climbing just outside the top 10 at the end of Stage 2 in 11th. The final stage witnessed a quiet move up the field before finally ending the day in the top five. With one race left to decide the four championship-eligible drivers for the season finale at Homestead, Keselowski sits in the last transfer spot, 19 points up on fifth-place Denny Hamlin.
“We had a pretty good car,” said Keselowski. “Something happened on lap one and basically we started the race last and a lap-and-a-half down. That cost us a bunch of stage points, but we rallied with a solid effort to get back to fifth.
“I’m happy for that.”
As solid as the effort was, the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion still wanted a better result and to get more points.
“We’ll take it,” said Keselowski.
“I still want more. I hate to give up those stage points. Nineteen points isn’t terrible for a cushion. We’ll need to go and have a solid race at Phoenix next week and hope none of the other guys win. It’s doable, but it’s gonna be a nailbiter next week for sure.”
Overall, he was pleased with how his Team Penske crew rallied from the early trouble.
“It was a nice response for sure,” said Keselowski. “That’s what you hope for. We’ve had really great efforts the last two weeks. We probably arguably deserve a little better result, but I’m still proud of the effort with strong, solid days with top fives. You take these Playoff races and get two top fives in the last round that’s pretty strong, I’d like to have a win, but we were in position to win last week and a top five this week.
“We just need to do the same or be a little more next week.”