Brad Keselowski survived six cautions inside the final 60 laps to score a strong fourth-place finish Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford Mustang grabbed his ninth top-five of the season but is 15 points below the fourth-place cutline in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with just two races until the season-finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Keselowski stretched his fuel mileage to perfection in Stage 1 and was rewarded with a 10th-place finish when the segment concluded on lap 105. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins called Keselowski to pit road to top off his fuel just before the race restarted on lap 39. The extra gas, plus conservation by the driver, allowed to Keselowski to make it to the end of the stage. The Discount Tire Ford was loose for much of the opening stage, but the No. 2 Mustang greatly improved as the segment drew to a close. Keselowski described his car as “screaming fast” when he was in clean air. He pitted for four tires and fuel during the stage caution and restarted 10th when the race went green on lap 112.
The balance on the Discount Tire Mustang steadily improved during Stage 2, especially on long runs. Keselowski took advantage, claiming a fifth-place stage finish. The highlight of the segment was the performance of the No. 2 crew, who gained four total positions for Keselowski in two pit stops. The assist from the pit crew kept Keselowski in contention for precious stage points during the segment. He restarted third when the race went green on the lap 216.
With an improved handling Ford Mustang and a lightning fast pit crew, Keselowski appeared to have a better than average chance to contend for the win. The only thing he didn’t have was a long stretch of green flag racing. He overcame the rash of cautions at the end of the race and a final green-white-checkered flag finish to score his top-five finish.
“We didn’t need all those yellows. We had the Discount Tire Ford balanced really well on the long runs. The last few times we have been here you get 40 or 50 or 100 lap runs at the end but today, geez, we didn’t run more than two laps at a time for the last 45 or 50 laps. That is just not what we needed,” said Keselowski. “We needed the long runs to be able to keep them honest. We gained a point but we moved up from eighth to sixth, so that is a nice little win for us and gives us a better pit stall for next week. If we can keep running like that and scoring high 30’s or low 40’s in points, then I think we will transfer in.”