2 Crew Celebrates Breakthrough at Daytona

After four restrictor plate wins at Talladega Superspeedway but zero wins and just three Top 10 finishes in 14 starts at Daytona International Speedway, it seemed like Brad Keselowski and the 2 Crew might never find Victory Lane at the World Center of Speed—that is, until Saturday night’s breakthrough.

The No. 2 Detroit Genuine Parts team was dominant in the Coke Zero 400, leading a race-high 115 of 160 laps en route to Brad’s first victory in 15 tries at NASCAR’s most iconic track. He revealed afterward that the 2 Crew went back to the drawing board with their approach at the Central Florida superspeedway and it made all the difference in one of the biggest victories of his career.

“It’s been a kick in the you-know-what,” Brad said on his Daytona luck. “I doubted myself here, and we came here for the 500, and quite honestly, we ran like dog crap. My team worked on it. I didn’t give up on them. I believed in them and they went to work and put together a better car and it really showed today with a great effort for our whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”

2016 NASCAR Daytona

Rolling off from P5, the solid qualifying attempt surprised the driver. It was a tremendous weekend for Ford Performance. Greg Biffle claimed the Coors Light Pole Award, and BK led a group of four Fords to finish in the Top 5: Trevor Bayne was third, Joey Logano was fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fifth, while Biffle crossed eighth.

“Top 5, that’s the best we’ve ever been on a plate track,” said Kes, confident in the Roush Yates power under his hood after qualifying.

Once the green flag dropped, the early stages saw a show between Brad and the No. 19 of Carl Edwards. After battling side-by-side for the first few laps, the ninth time around gave BK the chance to clear Edwards—and he took it. Holding the lead until the scheduled lap 20 competition caution, crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver in for two tires and fuel.

Racing resumed on lap 25 with Kes leading the field to the green, only to flip the lead with polesitter Biffle, and then reclaim it three laps later.

Brad’s first challenge of the evening came on lap 42 when the Deuce picked up a passenger in the form of a plastic bag on the narrow grille opening. Reporting high temperatures, concerns were raised in the 2 camp, but it would take 12 laps to remove the debris. As the race leader, his only option was to drop back behind second place Jamie McMurray – and he did so for only a split second, as BK removed the bag, and reclaimed the lead in an impressive crossover move.

Lap 65 saw something unusual for the 2.5-mile tri-oval: green flag pit stops. Kes made his stop as the race leader, and when the sequence cycled out on lap 71, he was shown in third behind Kyle Busch and teammate Joey Logano. As his crew removed the excess debris from the grille opening, Brad confirmed it, saying that the temps were back down around the optimal levels.

BK remained patient, and at lap 83, he got the push he needed to clear Denny Hamlin back to the lead. “The Big One” happened on lap 90, involving a total of 22 cars. As the second yellow of the night, Keselowski safely made it through as the race leader.

Wolfe called his car back into the pits for a 13.7-second service session, fitting the No. 2 with four fresh Goodyear Eagles and a tank of Sunoco racing fuel. The pitwork led to a lap 102 restart from third, behind Logano and Hamlin.

And it didn’t take long for Brad to show the dominance of his car, regaining the lead three laps after the green flag. Brad held the top spot until a lap 131 debris caution, where he pitted for fuel only, dropping a spot to Kyle Busch. Wolfe affirmed that they had “plenty of fuel for overtime,” removing the element of fuel saving.

The lap 135 restart came in crunch time as aggression rose throughout the field. It took nine laps, but Kes grabbed the lead back from Busch in an incredible crossover maneuver—which proved to be the move of the night, as Brad led the rest of the way. A few circuits later, on lap 148, Tony Stewart crashed, sparking another yellow flag. Under caution BK served as the in-car reporter, answering questions from the NBC broadcast booth. When asked how he will win the race, his answer was simple.

“Keep it out front,” Brad said. “I hear if you’re leading on the last lap, you win the race. What do you think? The 18, 22, 41, they all look pretty good. We’re just going to have to have a really good restart I think, it’s probably going to dictate the winner. Someone’s going to lay back and get a big run, it’s my job to try to hold it off on the restart and keep the lead. Sounds easy, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. I can tell you that.”

2016 NASCAR Daytona

Once again restarting on lap 154, the drivers didn’t even complete the lap as Carl Edwards and A.J. Allmendinger crashed. The incident set up a nerve-wracking Overtime finish on lap 159. Kes once again chose to restart in front of his teammate, Joey Logano. Kes got a better push from the No. 22 than Kurt Busch did in P2 from his brother, Kyle. Kurt still kept the No. 41 right on the tail of the Deuce, but thanks to Logano’s push, and some exemplary spotting from Joey Meier, Brad did exactly what he hoped: He kept it out front.

“Kurt and Kyle were doing a heck of a job. They worked together really well, but my teammate Joey Logano was a huge part of this today. We had two really good cars here at Team Penske and we worked together really well. Joey’s won here and he’s really a pro, especially on that restart. He gave me the push I needed to get to the front. Having a great team is an awesome thing,” Brad said. “I’m ready for The Chase to start right now. Let’s go. I feel like we’ve got a great effort. We’re as good as we’ve ever been, if not better, and we’re ready.”

Brad joined Kyle Busch as the only three-time winners so far this season. Kes vaulted past Busch and Carl Edwards to the top of the Chase grid. He’s now second in overall points, just 14 markers behind Kevin Harvick. BK now has five restrictor plate victories, and a total of 20 wins in 250 career starts. While it wasn’t the Daytona 500, this dominant night in NASCAR’s Mecca will go down as one of the best ever for the Rochester Hills, Mich. native.

“I don’t care that it’s not the 500—It’s Daytona,” he says. “It’s huge. I love this place and here we are in Victory Lane with the Detroit Genuine Parts Ford. It’s amazing. It was a great effort for our whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Brad will look to add a fourth victory in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. As the first race this season for NBC Sports Network, it will air on Saturday July 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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