Sonoma Brings Season’s Biggest Challenge for BK

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series goes road racing for the first time in 2016 this weekend and that presents a unique challenge for Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 crew, as they look to combat their traditionally mixed results on the series’ two road courses over the years.

This week’s race takes the Cup Series to Sonoma Raceway and while the Brad has had success on the Cup Series’ other right-turn venue, Watkins Glen International in New York, the California wine country road hasn’t been as welcoming to BK. However the driver of the No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion hopes he can shift gears in his road racing career with Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, and break through at the California road course that has brought him just one Top 10 finish over his career.

“Sonoma is probably the biggest challenge on the schedule for me each year,” Brad says. “I am not sure exactly what it is about this track. I am pretty good at the other road course, but Sonoma has been tough.”

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The 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course hasn’t been his least successful track on the Cup circuit, but it stands alongside Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the only NSCS tracks where Brad hasn’t brought home a Top 5 finish. However BK proved just last year that luck can be reversed. The other California racetrack that the Cup Series visits annually, Auto Club Speedway, was also on that list of venues alongside Indy and Sonoma, but Kes not only broke through with a Top 5—he drove all the way to Victory Lane.

BK’s best Sonoma finish came in 2011, his first season sporting the Miller Lite livery, with a 10th place result. Then teammate Kurt Busch, the driver of No. 22 Shell Pennzoil machine at the time, ended up drinking the celebratory wine in the Winner’s Circle that day, proving that Team Penske has the resources to compete at Sonoma. But it’s been a rough road back to Victory Lane ever since.

While the other road circuit in the Cup rotation at Watkins Glen is considered by some drivers to be a ‘superspeedway road course,’ the slower speed Sonoma has never meshed with the 2012 Champion. Kes has three runner-up finishes and four Top 10s to his name at The Glen, but he has just the lone Top 10 at Sonoma. His average finish of 19.8 at Sonoma is the third-worst on his resume, while Watkins Glen’s average finish of 11.3 is his fourth best.

“Sonoma is a technical track that requires a lot of finesse and my driving style is probably too aggressive here,” Brad admitted.

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Though he’s finished in the Top 10 just once, Brad has proven he can finish what he starts in wine country. Ever since his first start there in 2010, he’s completed every lap of the Sonoma action, surely hinting that he’ll be around at the finish this weekend. And despite the fact he hasn’t been able to run with the leaders at the end, BK has managed to spend seven laps out front in six Sonoma starts.

This weekend also makes the return of Alliance Truck Parts and its black and yellow paint scheme on the No. 2, the company first appearance as primary sponsor since Kansas last month, and their third overall this season. Brad heads into Sunday’s race looking to continue his Top 10 streak to a seventh consecutive race week—a spell that started the week prior to the ATP Deuce’s P10 finish at Kansas.

Brad will hit the track for the first time this weekend at 3 p.m. ET for the opening practice, and again at 6:30 p.m. ET for final practice. Qualifying Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET sets the grid for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, broadcasting live at 3 p.m. ET. All the action will be televised on FOX Sports 1.

Trucks Make Return to Gateway

While BK navigates the rough road around wine country in Sonoma, his Brad Keselowski Racing duo of drivers are preparing for their third straight week of racing, as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hits Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois for The Drivin’ for Linemen 200.

There, Daniel Hemric and his No. 19 team will look to build on their ninth place result from last season.

“Gateway Motorsports Park is a very interesting and unique racetrack. It’s one of the few places where we approach the racetrack from a bunch of different angles; knowing that it’s not just a short track, it’s not just an aero-package kind of racetrack like a mile-and-a-half,” he says. “You’ve got to really have a solid baseline at all the different types of racetracks we go to be good at Gateway. The front end of our Draw-Tite Ford F-150 has to work really well, but you’ve got to have enough of an aero platform to keep the grip level up as long as you can. That’s why it’s so unique and it puts a lot back in the driver’s hands. I’m excited to get there.”

Crew chief Chad Kendrick is equally optimistic about his team’s return to the track.

“We’re really excited to get to Gateway Motorsports Park. Our Draw-Tite Ford F-150 for this weekend has a brand new body and we believe that it’s going to unload fast.”

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Likewise, the No. 29 team is hoping for a big day at Gateway. Although he was born in California, No. 29 driver Tyler Reddick considers Du Quoin, Ill. to be his home, making a GMP his home track.

“Gateway means a lot to me and my family,” he says. “I have a lot of friends who are coming to that race, so I definitely want to run well in the Cooper Standard Ford F-150. I spent a lot of time growing up in Du Quoin and I know that area better than I know where I live now in Charlotte. There are a lot of good, hardcore race fans in that area that love all forms of racing.”

In last years running of this same race, Reddick had a shot at taking home another checkered flag, but came up short on a late race restart and settled for an eighth place finish. Still on his mind, he wants to seal the deal this time on the 1.25-mile Madison, Ill. track.

“We were really close to winning it last year, but came up a little short,” Reddick recalled. “I’m going the extra mile to make sure that we have a good race and put ourselves in a position to win like we did last time.”

The Drivin’ for Linemen 200 airs live on FOX Sports 1, Saturday night at 8:30p.m. ET.

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