Chaotic Restart Spoils Brad’s Top 5 Day

After each of the last two races, Brad Keselowski and the jubilant No. 2 Miller Lite Ford team celebrated in Victory Lane—but BK’s quiet radio sign-off was indicative of a disappointing day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kes was hopeful going into the New Hampshire 301 that he would join the exclusive list of drivers to log three consecutive wins, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Brad was in the Top 5 nearly the entire day in Loudon, but a sour stroke of luck forced him to settle for a 15th-place finish. Rather than end the day with a champagne shower, BK simply thanked his crew for their terrific work in the pits.

“Good job on pit road. Thank you everybody,” Kes said quietly after completing lap 301.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, New Hampshire

The 2 Crew certainly was on point in the Loudon pits, gaining the White Lite spots on pit road all afternoon, which helped Kes stay up front and post the race’s sixth best driver rating: 104.0.

Brad started ninth and worked his way past Chase Elliott and Joey Logano to seventh before the competition caution brought the end of the first run at lap 35. During those opening laps, BK told Paul Wolfe that the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford was just one adjustment away from being worthy of the win—but unfortunately, through a litany of tweaks all afternoon, the White Lite never did find that little bit extra.

While the Deuce led just one lap all day, it was a contender throughout the 318-mile race. The 2 Crew went against the grain on the first stop of the day, fitting their Ford with four tires while many teams took just two; but they lost just one spot on pit road. On the ensuing run, Brad joined the group that ran up front nearly the entire day: the Toyotas of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., as well as the Chevrolets of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

Battling with Kurt Busch, Harvick, Kenseth and Edwards, Brad settled into sixth on the following run before Chris Buescher spun out to bring out the day’s second caution at lap 100. The 2 Crew came through with another outstanding stop, as Brad entered sixth and left pit road third after a four-tire change. Kes held strong in the Top 5 on the following run before inheriting the lead for one lap during the green-flag pit cycle. After leading lap 184, he pitted at lap 185 and cycled back to fourth, where he stood at the race’s two-thirds mark: lap 201.

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire

Throughout the middle portion of the race, the Miller Lite Ford established itself as a Top 5 car, but it couldn’t get over the hump to contend for the lead. Brad once again told Wolfe that the car was just one adjustment away, but Paul told Brad that they had done all they could.

“10-4. We’ve done everything we can without bringing it behind the wall,” Wolfe said. “Sorry it isn’t better. Just do your best, bud.”

Brad was giving it all he could when the green-flag race went yellow late. After just two true yellows all day prior, a debris caution with 38 laps to go sparked a string of four yellow flags. On the restart after the second of those cautions, the field was bottled up and BK was caught right in the middle of the congestion, sandwiched between Kurt Busch and Joey Logano, resulting in damage to the Deuce and a cut tire.

“There at the end there was a restart and some guys got jumbled up in front of us and we were in the middle of three and got squeezed,” BK recalled. “We bounced off the 41 and got hit by the 22 and cut down a tire and had to come in.”

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire

The No. 2 team swiftly repaired the damage and replaced Brad’s Goodyear Eagles, sending him back out on the track in 22nd and still on the lead lap. A three-car wreck followed on the next restart, allowing BK to jump from 22nd to 19th. On the final 11-lap run, Brad passed Aric Almirola and Paul Menard to secure a Top 15 finish—his 10th straight at Loudon and his 11th straight this season.

“We were probably a fourth- or fifth-place car all day today. We were solid right up there,” Brad said. “We got back up to 15th, which I guess all things considered isn’t too bad.”

Kes has led laps in three straight races and in 10 points events this year—he remains at No. 1 in the Chase Grid as the only four-time winner in 2016. Matt Kenseth grabbed the checkered flag to become the fifth driver with multiple wins on the year. Kyle Busch (8th) and Edwards (20th) joined Brad as the only three drivers with Chase bids officially clinched this season.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next week for the Combat Wounded Coalition 400. Brad will look to reverse his luck at the Brickyard. Indy is one of just two tracks (joined by Sonoma) where Kes is yet to post a Top 5 finish. Sunday’s race is set to go green shortly after 3 p.m. ET and will air on NBC Sports Network.

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