By: Toby Christie, Editor – Follow on twitter @Toby_Christie
FORT WORTH, Texas — Brad Keselowski came into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway with the 10th-place starting position, and hopes were high for another good finish to keep him in contention for a berth for the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a couple of weeks.
However, when the green flag was shown, about 10 seconds into the race it became obvious that this wouldn’t be a normal stress-free day for Keselowski and his No. 2 team. In the middle of turns 1 and 2 on the opening lap, Keselowski made contact with Kyle Busch, which nicked the valve stem out of Keselowski’s tire. Keselowski took his deflated tire to pit road, but luckily he didn’t let his spirits bottom out as well.
Keselowski fell to last-place, and also dropped a lap off the pace to the leaders. When Keselowski returned to the track, he continued to show good speed, but as Denny Hamlin put down a punishing pace more and more drivers went a lap down. When the caution came out for the first time at the end of the first Stage, Keselowski was nowhere near position for the lucky dog in 26th position.
More importantly, Keselowski who is battling for a championship missed out on important Stage points.
“We had a pretty good car,” Keselowski said. “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.”
When the green flag for Stage 2 came out, the driver of the No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion kept on digging and when the caution came out again on lap 94, Keselowski was in position for the free pass. From here, Keselowski and company methodically worked their way forward.
When Stage 2 concluded at lap 180, Keselowski found himself in 11th. Within the next four green flag laps, Keselowski rocketed into the top-five, where he would stay virtually the remainder of the race.
In the end, the comeback rally fell short of a win, but Keselowski was pleased as punch with the resolve of his race team after a fifth-place finish on Sunday.
“It was a nice response for sure. 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.”
This finish keeps Keselowski in the thick of the Playoffs hunt, as he is in the final transfer spot of the point standings, and is 18 points ahead of the fifth-place driver in the standings — Denny Hamlin. Despite being in a good position heading into Phoenix, Keselowski will not simply rest on his laurels next weekend.
“I need more than that. I’d feel confident if we were locked in. These races you don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
Even though he’s uncomfortable heading into Phoenix, if Keselowski and his team go on to race for a championship in Homestead, a miraculous comeback run in Texas could very well be the reason.
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images