By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
At the end of Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick had punched his ticket to the Round of 12 in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase. Martin Truex Jr., who finished seventh, punched his ticket last weekend with a win at Chicagoland Speedway.
Another competitor ‘On the Chase Radar’ after the race at New Hampshire is Brad Keselowski.
Keselowski started his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion 11th and ran just inside the top 15 for much of the day.
Strategy by Keselowki’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, kept Keselowski on track during a round of green flag pit stops around lap 75. This allowed Keselowski to lead a lap and earn a bonus point, which could make the difference at the end of the Round of 16.
The strategy seemed as though it would backfire as Keselowski went from running 15 seconds behind race leader Truex, to 22 seconds behind the Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry.
Pit strategy once again became a factor late. Several cautions convinced some teams, including Keselowski’s to pit for tires. The strategy paid off for Team Penske’s Keselowski as he worked his way up through the field. When the checkered waved, Keselowski crossed the line in fourth, a far cry from the 15th position, which Keselowski had been running for the bulk of the race.
Keselowski now has a 35-point cushion over the Chase cut-off for the Round of 12.
The next race, and final race for the Round of 16, is the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway.
After the race at New Hampshire, Keselowski was optimistic heading to the next round at Dover.
“It feels good to go to Dover and be able to sleep easy knowing that if you have a part failure or get caught up in a wreck or any of those silly things that can happen that aren’t you fault, you don’t have to worry about them so that’s good, but we still have some work to do to get a little faster.”
Keselowski has the third best average finish at Dover in the last five races among active drivers. Only fellow Chasers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have a better average finish than Keselowski. Larson has an average finish of 6.20. Elliott has an average finish of 3.00, the best of all active drivers, but Elliott has only competed in one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover.
Keselowski has a career average finish of 12.77 at Dover, including a win at the Monster Mile in 2012. Keselowski has four-career top fives at Dover and five top 10s. Keselowski has led a total of 174 laps at Dover.
In the last five races at Dover, Keselowski’s average finish 7.60 with an average driver rating of 100.9. During this five race span, Keselowski has finished in the top five twice, and in the top 10 three times. Keselowski also earned one pole at Dover in the June 2014 race.
Based on these statistics, Keselowski should be in good shape to move on to the Round of 12.