LONG POND, PA — Brad Keselowski has been struggling since he won the NASCAR Cup Series race back at the end of April in Talladega. At the time, that was his fourth top five of the season in his No. 2 Ford. But, in the nine races since, Sunday’s third place run at the Pocono Raceway was just his second.
Keselowski, finished third one week later after his Talladega win in Kansas. His finishes after that was 24th, 16th, 19th, 11th, 15th, 23rd and 10th respectively heading into Sunday’s race.
The momentum was lost. It wasn’t just lost for him. It was gone for Ryan Blaney too. Since Blaney won in Atlanta in March, he didn’t have a top five finish in either of his next 11 starts. Then, he comes out and finishes fifth on Saturday and sixth on Sunday from Pocono.
Talk about momentum changing weekends for both drivers.
For Keselowski, their pit strategy is what helped get them going. Keselowski, pit on Lap 86 which was during the caution between the second and third stage. When everyone else was peeling off to pit for their final time after, Keselowski made his fuel last.
We had a debris caution on Lap 92 which saw guys duck down pit road for what they hoped would be their final time. Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Chase Briscoe, Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. all pit on Lap 93. Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez all did the same on Lap 94.
On Lap 102, Joey Logano ducked down pit road for his final time. On Lap 105, it was Blaney’s turn. On Lap 111, Kevin Harvick pit. Three laps later came Alex Bowman. Keselowski, was still stretching it. He went all the way to Lap 131.
Without a caution to fly from the debris to the checkered flag, it allowed Keselowski almost a flawless strategy. With only needing a handful of laps of fuel, they just did a splash and go. That propelled him to seventh when the cycle ended. With almost everyone in front needing to save fuel, could the win fall in Keselowski’s lap?
Byron, Hamlin and Kurt Busch all had to pit before the end. They didn’t make it. Kyle Busch and Larson could and with Keselowski passing two cars after his pit stop, there he was crossing the finish line in third.
“We ran a really good race but just didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end like those others guys did,” Keselowski said. “They beat us on power and fuel mileage. We have a lot of work to do to keep up with those guys. I am really proud of Jeremy Bullins and the team. They had the setup really well and it put is in position and we ran a great race today and maximized our day. It was a nice rebound from where we have been. We have had a lot of bad breaks with things breaking and all kinds of issues across the board. My mistakes, other mistakes. This was a really good day for us.”
Blaney, was sixth with Logano 10th for Penske getting top 10’s on both days this weekend.