By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
SPARTA, Ky. – The right strategy on pit road earned Brad Keselowski a top-five finish at Kentucky Speedway. The 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion had not been running inside the top-10 at Kentucky Speedway prior to Paul Wolfe’s call.
At the end of Stage 2, Keselowski and Wolfe elected to take two tires, moving the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Fusion into the lead. He held off eventual race winner Martin Truex, Jr. on the restart, dueling the defending Champion for nearly 40 laps. Keselowski broke loose lapping Matt Dibenedetto, sliding up the track, giving Truex the lead. He remained in the top-five until the checkered, finishing third.
“It was a good call from my crew chief, Paul Wolfe,” Keselowski said. “We had better speed than we’ve had at the mile-and-a-halves, but not enough to run with the 78. He eventually got by us there and I thought we might have had a shot at it if we could have restarted fourth there, but we kind of cycled back to sixth and it wasn’t enough to be able to make something happen there. All in all, a decent day.”
Keselowski fell out of the top-10 early in the 400-mile race. During a round of green flag pit stops, he was busted for speeding exiting pit road. The resulting pass-thru penalty dropped Keselowski from battling with Truex for the lead, to well outside the top-10. However, he never lost a lap throughout the ordeal.
“I hate that I kind of dug a hole early in the race with the speeding on pit road. We were just racing the 18 off pit road and tried to get a little bit too much, but we’ll take this and hopefully build off of it for the mile-and-a-halves in the Playoffs. It’s gonna be really important and I’m looking forward to next week in Loudon. I think we’ll be really good there.”
The third-place finish was the fifth top-five for Keselowski this season. It also keeps him fifth in the Championship Points Standings, 169-points behind Points Leader Kyle Busch. Keselowski has a relatively comfortable 203-point gap over the cutoff for the Playoffs held by Alex Bowman.