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Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS), finished second in the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International (WGI) on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 12. In what proved to be almost a carbon copy of last year’s event at WGI, Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose battled for the win at the end of the race. The three raced each other hard over the final laps in what is sure to be one of the best finishes of the year. In the end, Ambrose was able to capture the checkered flag as Keselowski completed a strong runner-up weekend that also saw him finish second in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at WGI.
Keselowski qualified fourth for the 90-lap Cup Series event with a time of 69.654 seconds, or 126.626 miles per hour, around the 2.45-mile road course during the Saturday morning qualifying session. Just as he did in the previous day’s NNS race, Keselowski quickly made his way into the third position on the first lap. He radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe that his car was handling tight in Turn 3 and in the “carousel” and it continued to build tighter as the run progressed.
Sticking to a pre-determined strategy, Wolfe called his driver down pit road for the first of only two pit stops of the day at lap 23. Following a stop for four tires, fuel, and wedge and air pressure adjustments, Keselowski returned to the track just prior to the first caution flag of the day. With the race leaders still needing to pit under the yellow flag, Keselowski was able to claim the lead as the race resumed at lap 30.
The Penske Racing driver began to turn some of the fastest laps of the race while at the front of the field. However, he could not hold off Ambrose, who made a pass for the lead at lap 39. Upon hearing that Ambrose was on a three-stop strategy – as opposed to the two-stop strategy the fuel-efficient Miller Lite team employed – Keselowski began to go into fuel-saving mode at lap 44. Ambrose made his way to pit road at lap 47, which allowed Keselowski to reclaim the race lead.
The Miller Lite Dodge made its way down pit road for the second – and final – time at lap 57 for four tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments once again. This proved to be another well-timed pit stop called by Wolfe as another caution flag waved over the field just as Keselowski returned to the track. Keselowski reassumed the lead at lap 61 when the rest of the leaders pitted. The green flag flew to restart the race at lap 62.
The final 28 laps provided some of the most exciting racing in recent memory. Keselowski was able to hold onto the point before Busch made his way around the Miller Lite Dodge on a lap-75 restart. Keselowski fell back to third place behind Busch and Ambrose before settling into a smooth pace to chase down the two leaders.
As another competitor’s car began to leak oil onto the racing surface, Keselowski was able to make his way by Ambrose for second place before racing to the back bumper of Busch as the field took the white flag to signify the final lap. Upon entering Turn 1, Busch had trouble with the oil on the track and slid up out of the racing groove. Keselowski, sensing this was his chance at victory, moved to the inside as Busch came back down the track. The two drivers made contact, which resulted in Busch losing control of his car. This allowed Ambrose to make his way back into the picture as he and Keselowski traded paint over the final lap on the slick road course. As the two battled for the lead, Keselowski could not hold off Ambrose on the final turn and brought his car home in the second position.
Including Saturday’s NNS race, all four Penske Racing entries at WGI finished inside the top-five for a stellar overall weekend performance. The Dodge cars seem determined to make a spectacular exit from NASCAR competition this year. [8/15/2012]