Brad Keselowski and his Team Penske group put together a championship-caliber effort at Texas Motor Speedway to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Entering the weekend third on the playoff leaderboard, Keselowski stayed above the cutline with a fifth-place finish in the AAA Texas 500. But it was the recovery from falling a lap down right off the bat which made the day even more impressive.
On the initial start of the race, Keselowski slid up the track in Turn 2 and was soon on pit road because of a flat left rear tire. The culprit was a valve stem getting knocked off and the unscheduled pit stop under green flag conditions left Keselowski sitting 39th. He would get his lap back on Lap 95, and by Lap 190 the No. 2 Ford was back in the top 10.
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“We had a pretty good car. Something happened on Lap 1 and basically, we started the race last and a lap and a half down,” said Keselowski. “That cost us a bunch of stage points, but we rallied with a solid effort to get back to fifth.”
Keselowski did not earn stage points in either the first or second stages. But once he had track position, Keselowski was a contender.
“It was a nice response, for sure. That’s what you hope for,” Keselowski said. “We’ve had really great efforts the last two weeks. We probably arguably deserve a little better result, but I’m still proud of the effort with strong, solid days with top fives.
“You take these playoff races and get two top fives in the last round that’s pretty strong. I’d like to have a win, but we were in position to win last week and a top five this week. We just need to do the same or be a little better next week.”
With Sunday’s result, Keselowski is in the final transfer spot going into the elimination race at Phoenix. But the gap is just 19 points.
“We’ll take it. I still want more,” Keselowski said of his day. “I hate to give up those stage points. Nineteen points isn’t terrible for a cushion. We’ll need to go and have a solid race at Phoenix next weekend and hope none of the other guys win.
“It’s doable, but it’s going to be a nail-biter next week for sure.”
Earlier this season Keselowski finished fifth at Phoenix. In 16 starts at the track, Keselowski has eight top-10 finishes but no victories.