Deuces Wild: Keselowski shines at Bristol

Disappointing finishes at Las Vegas in the rearview mirror, Penske Racing’s Allmendinger and Keselowski hoped to redeem themselves, and their fuel tanks, Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. For one the stars aligned and for the other a solid run slipped away.

AJ Allmendinger – Shell / Pennzoil Dodge – 17th

Allmendinger started alongside Greg Biffle
Justin Edmonds - Getty Images for NASCAR
Redemption was the name of the game for the “Double Deuce” as the driver who struggled in the opening weeks looked to score his first solid run of the season, and possibly his first career victory. Starting from the second position Allmendinger was fast from the get-go. Choosing to stay on the track, rather than pit for the initial caution, the No. 22 Dodge moved into the lead where he pulled out to a 1.5 second advantage over the pack.

Leading for the first time in 11 career starts at Bristol, Allmendinger called the car comfortable, but that feeling wouldn’t last for long. After losing the lead to Brian Vickers and a subsequent pit stop, the Shell Pennzoil Dodge started slipping back into the field. As laps passed the car got looser and looser. Around Lap 170, while in 10th position, Allmendinger radioed that the car felt like it had a loose wheel. Although he didn't pit for several more laps, the machine had lost its competitive edge and struggled in the final half of the event eventually finishing 17th.

Brad Keselowski – Miller Lite Dodge – Race Winner

Never far from his phone, @keselowski Tweets from Victory Lane
John Harrelson - Getty Images for NASCAR
In 2011 Brad Keselowski captured his third victory of the season on the half-mile at Bristol on the way to a fifth-place finish in the championship standings. Just four races into the 2012 season, Keselowski earned his first victory of 2012 at the track that’s quickly becoming one of his favorites.

Starting from the fifth position the “Blue Deuce” was a solid contender in the first half of the race, running inside the top five. Battling to move forward on the high banks of Bristol, Keselowski took the lead on Lap 217. Leading for a total of 231 laps the Miller Lite Dodge stayed within the top two for the remainder of the day, only losing position for short periods during caution laps and restarts. Although his car was strong, it wasn’t an easy victory. Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth was the biggest threat to the Blue Deuce, with both drivers running nearly the same speeds while each tried to best the other through the turns.

In the end Keselowski earned his first victory of 2012 and his second in a row at Bristol.

Following the race, Keselowski said, “There's other places that perhaps have a little more prestige, and I said that last year as well, but this place defines a race team. It asks so much of you, whether it's just in practice, being lined up on pit road, dealing with the noise, the havoc that practice can be, or the hot day of getting through tech, making those last adjustments, or as a driver 500 laps in a bowl trying to keep your composure. This racetrack can really test a team.”

Deuces Wild: Keselowski shines at Bristol Deuces Wild: Keselowski shines at Bristol Reviewed by Katy Lindamood on Monday, March 19, 2012 Rating: 5