Spin at Kansas Sends Brad to Round of 8 Bubble

After starting the Chase for the Sprint Cup with four straight Top 10 results, the luck ended for Brad Keselowski and the 2 Crew as a big spin through the Kansas Speedway grass sent them home in 38th place.

BK was running in the Top 10, looking to give himself some valuable insurance points going into the final Round of 12 race next week at Talladega Superspeedway. But while Brad was making a pass on Denny Hamlin, the rear of his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion clipped the nose of Hamlin’s No. 11, sending the White Lite spinning into the infield grass, effectively ending its day.

“As far as what happened on the track I don’t know,” Brad said afterward. “I spun and got in the grass and tore the nose off.”

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Starting the 40-mile Kansas race from P8, seventh best of the Chase contenders, Brad played it conservative early on as he dropped back to 16th by lap 10. By the lap 27 debris caution, he made it back up to 13th, passing Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, and Ryan Newman. Pitting under yellow for four tires and fuel, the Miller 2 Crew performed excellently on pit road once more, gaining two spots.

Setting up for the lap 31 restart from 11th, BK settled back in 13th before a caution flew from Aric Almirola spinning just five laps later. Then two laps after the L42 restart, another yellow was brought out by Jamie McMurray contacting the wall. Going green on the 48th lap once more from 14th, it set up for a longer green-flag run.

Kes passed Newman on the start, as well as Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson by the time he visited pit road on lap 90 for a scheduled stop. Staying out longer than the race leaders, he was able to lead a lap and gain a valuable bonus point. Cycling out to P15, he picked up another two spots on Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. when the next yellow for Josh Wise was triggered.

Pitting for a fresh set of tires and fuel, it lined the Deuce up for a lap 121 14th place restart, and the high line carried him up to 12th, before passing Blaney 11 laps after for 11th. Pitting under green for a routine stop on lap 175, the 12.2-second stop for another set of Goodyear Eagles, fuel, and a chassis adjustment brought Kes inside the Top 10. Two laps after servicing, a yellow was displayed for Kyle Larson brushing the wall. Crew chief Paul Wolfe decided to bring his car right back in for fresh tires with an air pressure adjustment to improve handling conditions.

2016 NASCAR Kansas

That air tweak appeared to work, as Brad moved past Blaney and others from 12th into the Top 10. But six laps after the restart, Brad was moving by Hamlin for ninth. Just when he slid back up in line, his car bobbled and took a hit from Hamlin’s 11. The No. 2 Ford took a slide through the grass, destroying its front end.

“I probably could have raced less hard with a big points gap coming in,” Brad said. “With this format I had a big points gap coming in.”

As a driver accustomed to giving 100 percent at all times, it became an instantly regrettable decision to not roll around the track like his title hopeful counterparts did. Kes raced conservatively early, but just when he went to make his move to the front, disaster struck. BK looked back on a day where he was just uncomfortable racing outside of his usual aggressive style.

“With this format it is probably the smart thing to do but I don’t want to race like that. I want to race my guts out and go for wins,” BK said. “I don’t want to points race. I don’t care what the damn format is, I am going to give it my best.”

Following a visit to the garage, the White Deuce emerged back on track, 30 laps down. But upon re-entering the racing surface, the machine began to smoke, ending their day for good.

The 38th-place finish puts a damper on the Team Penske crew’s momentum, but it doesn’t necessarily put them in a must-win situation going to Talladega Superspeedway next week. As it stands heading into the elimination race, Brad is perched 11th in points, just seven markers outside the advancement line.

With the final race of the Round of 12 coming in a restrictor plate race, the Michigan native knows anything is possible. Winning this same race in 2014 after facing adversity in Kansas that season, and winning the two most recent place races, the 2 Crew enters ‘Dega with a load of confidence. Tune into the Alabama 500 on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. ET, live on NBC Sports Network.

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