Kes Hopes to Stay Clean in Kansas

After earning a 25-point cushion over the cutoff line to the Round of 8 with a Top 10 finish at Charlotte, don’t expect Brad Keselowski to make any major gambles in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion driver watched five NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup hopefuls finish 30th or worse at Charlotte, while he finished seventh, and fourth among Cup Championship contenders. With a nice cushion, BK wasn’t afraid to reveal that he’ll be playing it safe in Kansas City.

“If you’re a car that has any kind of gap right now, you’re going to just go and lay up at Kansas,” he said. “You’re going to try really hard to not put yourself in any situations. The reality is if you have a pretty good gap, you’re going to take a log off the fire.”

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire

Denny Hamlin (30th), Austin Dillon (32nd), Chase Elliott (33rd), Joey Logano (36th) and Kevin Harvick (38th) experienced issues in Charlotte, giving some breathing room to Brad and the other drivers who turned in strong finishes in the Round of 12’s opening race, though race winner Jimmie Johnson is the only one truly safe. The remaining six drivers who finished well but didn’t win are left to battle for spots in the Top 8, all while hoping lady luck stays on their side.

In 2011, the midwestern 1.5-mile track expanded its presence to two Sprint Cup races per season. The first of them came in the spring, where Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe synchronized perfectly to claim the pair’s first NSCS victory. In an excellent display of fuel mileage racing, Brad’s clutch work on the clutch saved enough precious fumes to earn his first of many race wins for legendary car owner Roger Penske. Following the triumph, Brad was relieved that his team finally had the much-deserved Victory Lane celebration.

“We just never caught that good break, and you can only put yourself in that position so many times before you’re going to catch the right break,” Brad said, “and we caught a great break today all because of the hard work from the Miller Lite team working on these cars.”

Brad’s victory ended up as the final race on Kansas Speedway’s original pavement. When the series returned in the fall, it was replaced with fresh asphalt. Even with the surface change, the No. 2 still brought a Chase-boosting third place result in the second KS race of the season.

As of late, Kes is on a hot streak at Kansas. Posting a Top 10 in his last three appearances at the track, his team certainly knows how to put up a solid day. Their most recent showing in KS was another opportunity for victory for the 2 Crew, but they were saddled with adversity late in the going. Spun out by Denny Hamlin, BK recovered to finish 10th.

“It was a long night for the Alliance Truck Parts Ford team. We drove back up to 10th in the last 20 laps from 17th or whatever, so it was up and down,” he said following the May race.

In his 11 Kansas starts behind the wheel of the Deuce, BK only has one finish outside of the Top 20—and it came during the 2014 Chase race. A blown tire set the team back to an undesirable 36th-place result, only to be corrected by a timely win at Talladega just two weeks later.

2016 NASCAR New Hampshire

The Michigan native feels that Team Penske’s chances for a Kansas win could be in the cards, as teammate Logano won this event the past two seasons.

“These three races are ones that I feel confident in. And Kansas, likewise, we were running up front and we finished 10th there.  Joey has won there,” BK said.

After a tough break in Charlotte, Logano will certainly be looking for his third straight fall win at Kansas, while Brad will aim to stack up yet another solid finish and move one step closer to the Round of 8.

First practice is at 1 p.m. ET Friday, followed by qualifying that evening at 6:15 on NBCSN. Two more practice sessions follow at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Hollywood Casino 400 goes green Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. ET, live on NBC.

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