After standout performances in last week’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Bristol, Brad Keselowski finds himself a rookie at Martinsville. The driver of the No. 12 Penske Dodge will make his first Cup start at the short track in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500.
Keselowski’s limited experience at the 0.526-mile speedway consists of four starts in the Camping World Truck Series. His best finish was 18th in a truck owned by his father, Bob Keselowski, in 2005. The last time he competed at Martinsville was in 2007, finishing 20th in a truck for J.L. Pennington.
In the three years since he has raced at Martinsville, Keselowski has found success at another short track, Bristol. In six Nationwide starts, he has one win, three top 5s, including last week’s second-place finish, and one top 10. In his lone Sprint Cup start at Bristol, Keselowski placed 13th, his best finish this season. He led 26 laps and ran in the top 10 for most of the race.
Though Bristol and Martinsville are very different, crew chief Jay Guy believes Keselowski’s talent for short-track racing will carry over to Martinsville.
“Martinsville is probably the toughest track to visit for the first time, but I’m very confident that we can have a good run this weekend. Short-track racing is something that Brad has shown he has the ability to do well,” Guy said.
Keselowski has made progress in his first full-time Sprint Cup season. Last week’s top-15 finish at Bristol came two weeks after Keselowski had been running as high as fourth at Atlanta. After falling back a spot to fifth, Keselowski’s chance at a top-5 finish was marred when Carl Edwards wrecked him in the closing laps, causing Keselowski’s car to go airborne. Keselowski finished the day 36th.
After five races into the 2010 season, Keselowski and the No. 12 team are 30th in the Sprint Cup driver and owner standings.
He will start 30th in Sunday's race. Qualifying was rained out Friday and the field was set according to owner points.
The Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville also marks the first Sprint Cup race with the new spoiler, which replaces the much-maligned rear wing. The wing has been criticized for its looks and negative impact on competition. It’s also been speculated the wing played a part in causing racecars to go airborne in both races at Talladega last year, as well as Keselowski’s car in the Atlanta wreck.
Keselowski participated in testing with the spoiler at Talladega and earlier this week at Charlotte. He has one Sprint Cup victory with the wing, at Talladega last April.
Keselowski said the spoiler’s return will be “a great thing for our series” and will likely improve the quality of racing.
“It’s a more traditional look that the fans have said they want. We’ve had some great racing this year, but the spoiler gives the car a little more down force that will, hopefully, allow us to put on an even better show,” Keselowski said.
The driver of the No. 12 is confident Penske Racing is prepared for the change.
“It will take some time for us to adjust, but we have very talented people working here at Penske Racing that will make it as seamless as possible.”
PHOTO FROM NASCAR MEDIA