Top 5 Finish Sends 2 Crew to Round of 12

One race still remains in the Round of 16, but Brad Keselowski has already secured his spot in the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team ran a brilliant race at one of its bread-and-butter tracks, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Though he didn’t lead a lap, BK ran near the front all afternoon in the ISM Connect 300, and he crossed in fourth place for his 12th Top 5 of the year—enough to mathematically clinch his spot in the next round.

“It was great execution. The pit crew was really solid today and a pretty good setup too,” Brad said. “Paul Wolfe and the engineers did a good job putting the right stuff under the car. I felt like we were where we needed to be to win and to run up front with the pit crew and the setup, just kind of lacking a little bit with aero stuff to keep up, but this type of track aerodynamics are a little less important and I felt like it helped us run a little bit higher this week.”

The White Lite wasn’t outstanding leading up to Sunday’s main event. Brad qualified 13th and didn’t run higher than 12th during the three practice sessions, but like they’ve done before in Loudon, the Miller 2 Crew got it done on race day.

Within 15 laps, the car that didn’t crack the Top 12 all weekend was scored in the Top 10 thanks to some excellent forward drive cooked up by the Team Penske engineers. While Stage 1 went all the way through under green, BK climbed his way to seventh to pad his point total.

During the first stop of the day under the Stage 1 caution, the 2 Crew stepped up again, sending Brad off in third after a quick servicing. Kes made sure that effort didn’t go to waste, as he defended his spot in the Top 5 for the entirety of Stage 2. In the final lap of the second stage, a race-defining wreck happened when Kevin Harvick spun out. Several cars were swallowed up by the wreck, but spotter Joey Meier guided BK safely down onto the apron and safely through to a third-place Stage 2 finish.

Brad slid back initially to start Stage 3, but he quickly passed Jimmie Johnson to break back into the Top 5. The No. 2 Ford was losing some rear grip as the race wore on, but Kes held on, enduring four restarts after a late rash of cautions to secure a Top 5 finish and a whopping 45 points. That put Kes 62 points to the good of the 12th-place cutline going into the Round of 16’s final race in Dover.

With the pressure off at the Monster Mile, Brad and his team can continue their chase of the field-leading Toyotas. BK drew criticism going into the playoffs after warning his Twitter followers of the Toyotas’ dominance. So far, he’s been spot on. This week’s race winner, Kyle Busch, and last week’s winner, Martin Truex Jr., led a combined 299 of 300 laps in their Toyotas at Loudon. With one manufacturer topping the charts, the Miller 2 Crew is remaining opportunistic while leaning on top-notch execution to carry them through.

“I think today, this execution is as good as you can get,” Brad said. “A little bit of luck helps and of course you want to be the fastest car. That’s not the scenario with rules the way they are now, so we’ve got to make the most of it and hope to catch a few breaks and make sure we do our part.”

The final Round of 12 race, the Apache Warrior 400 presented by Lucas Oil, is set for a 2 p.m. ET green flag Sunday and will air on NBCSN.

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