Making it through a total of 85 (out of 800) circuits over the last two races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Raceway, Brad Keselowski was in need of a strong result in Sunday’s 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway.
Keselowski started from sixth position, quickly moving up to third to end the final stage, rewarded by eight stage points. In the second stage through a plethora of pit strategies, the No. 2 team finished seventh in the second stage.
The race changed late in the race as Keselowski’s crew chief Paul Wolfe stretched the fuel mileage as far as the tank would allow, pitting with 20 laps to go. One lap later, Kasey Kahne lost his brakes going into Turn 1, which put the No. 2 team in prime position.
During the caution, only Kyle Busch and Keselowski chose not to put with the No. 2 car only having one lap of competition on its tires, while the No. 18 car was on old tires. Keselowski would restart on the inside of race leader Busch.
Erik Jones put Keselowski three-wide going into Turn 1, making the No. 2 car fall back outside the top five. He rebounded to finish fifth, his first top-five effort since finishing runner-up at Kansas Speedway.
“The caution put us in position to get a great finish out of it, which I thought was really good,” Keselowski said post-race. “We were just off a little bit all day today to run with the best cars. My team called an excellent race and that was good.
“I just didn’t quite get the launch I needed. I just mistimed it, or didn’t have enough. The car was real good and I was real proud of the effort. ”
With 10 laps to go, Ryan Blaney got by Busch, en route to winning his first-career race. Keselowski gave the 23-year-old his first opportunity in the Camping World Truck Series in 2012, competing in nine events for Brad Keselowski Racing.
If Keselowski or his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano weren’t able to get to Victory Lane, an affiliated team the Wood Brothers
“It’s always great to see a first time winner,” Keselowski said of Blaney. “Ryan [Blaney] has been a part of this sport for a long time, along with his family and they deserve it. It was awesome to interview him in Victory Lane. He’s got a real positive future in front of him.”
The Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway next week, Keselowski’s home track. In 15 career starts at the 2-mile oval, his best finish is second coming in 2012.
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