Richmond Roller Coaster Stops at P11

The No. 2 Thomas Built Buses Ford looked its best all day on the final run at Richmond International Raceway, but Brad Keselowski simply ran out of time in the Toyota Owners 400.

Paul Wolfe and the 2 Crew spent the afternoon getting the black and red Deuce dialed in, and it looked its strongest late in the race. But the strategy call that allowed Brad to lead six laps also put him in a huge hole, down to 18th place, leaving Kes a long way to climb back in the closing laps as he finished 11th.

“We weren’t where we wanted to be for sure but we were able to get through it. Sometimes that is all you can do,” Brad said. “We were probably a fifth to 10th place car and fell back from the strategy but drove up there into about 11th and honestly we just ran out of time.”

2016 NASCAR Richmond

Brad started sixth at America’s premier short track—his second best start of the year. Kes ran at that spot in the first practice session of the weekend, and he started there when qualifying was rained out.

Kes gave detailed feedback to Wolfe and Co. on that first run. The Thomas Built Buses Ford was tight through the center and loose exiting the turns of Richmond’s D-shaped oval. The first run went up and down as BK tested multiple lines on the track before pitting from ninth at lap 86. He was one of the first in the field to pit, giving him an advantage to start the ensuing run.

Running a couple laps on fresher tires allowed Brad to cycle out to third place on the following run. After the first round of adjustments, Brad reported that the No. 2 was extremely tight at the two-thirds on the exit of Richmond’s corners, and he slid back to 10th before the day’s first caution at lap 158.

Brad fluctuated from seventh to 11th until an adjustment at lap 195 set him back. The tweak made by Wolfe’s crew sent the Thomas Ford the wrong direction, but Kes fell to just 13th while battling his car.

“Brad, way to hang on there,” Wolfe radioed. “We’ll get that out of it and go the other way if it’s that bad.”

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Richmond

The 2 Crew did just that, and Brad used the adjustments to slice his way back into the Top 10 to ninth on the following run. When the race’s fourth yellow flag flew at lap 270, the scope of the afternoon changed for the No. 2 team. Brad and Paul got together over the radio and decided that, whatever the leaders did, they would do the opposite on this stop. So when the front of the field went to the pits, Brad stayed out with just over 10 laps on his tires.

Kes restarted in first at lap 275 and held off a strong charge from Kurt Busch for several laps. Brad looked strong for several laps, fending off the 41 before bowing out at lap 278. From there, it didn’t take long for BK to start sliding back on older tires. By the time the next yellow flag flew, he was all the way back in the 18th position, prompting Paul to apologize for the call on the radio.

“We’re in it together,” BK replied. “We’ll roll with the punches. Let’s go.”

To make matters worse, a few quick cautions followed, wasting valuable laps under yellow. When the race finally had an extended green-flag period, Brad used it to pass Greg Biffle, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson into 12th ahead of the final yellow flag. The final run was a frustrating one for Brad, as he spent nearly 20 laps trying to get around Dale Earnhardt Jr. and into 11th. Brad was working on Busch over the final laps but settled for 11th, while Carl Edwards bumped and ran past the other Busch brother, Kyle, to take his second straight win.

NEXT UP

With one fourth of the season’s slate in the books, Brad sits sixth on the Chase Grid, as still only six drivers have logged wins this year: Edwards, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson have two each, while Brad, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick each have one.

Now the Cup Series heads to one of Brad’s best tracks: Talladega Superspeedway. The largest oval on the NSCS circuit, Dega is also the only track where Brad has three wins for his career. Kes finished 22nd at Talladega last spring, but he sandwiched that result with a win in the fall of 2014 and a fourth-place finish last fall.

He’ll look to add a fourth win and join the ranks of this year’s double winners when the Geico 500 goes green after 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

View Entire Article Here