Back in the saddle

DOVER, DE - MAY 31:  (L-R) Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, talks with crew chief Paul Wolfe during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2013 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)

DOVER, DE – MAY 31: (L-R) Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, talks with crew chief Paul Wolfe during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2013 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)

DOVER, Del. –Paul Wolfe, crew chief on the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford of reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, couldn’t be happier to be back at a race track.

Wolfe returns to action for Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover after missing two points races and the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race during a suspension affecting both Penske Racing Cup teams for unapproved rear end housing assemblies at Texas in mid-April.

Though Wolfe dictated many of the competitive decisions for Keselowski from afar, he missed being at the track even more than he thought he would.

“For me personally, it was tough,” Wolfe said Friday at Dover. “It was tougher to deal with than what I thought it would be. I’m a hands-on kind of guy, and for me to be able to watch the car in practice and see how it runs around other cars is important to me, visually, to see that and make decisions on what changes to make.

“Everyone that stepped up and helped out did a great job and did all that we could ask, but, obviously, it’s just not the same.”

During Wolfe’s absence, Keselowski finished 32nd at Darlington and 36th in last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. He dropped five spots to 10th in the standings, the last position that would guarantee a spot in this year’s Chase.

“We’ve lost a lot of points over the last month, and it started a little earlier… before I was gone,” Wolfe said. “We had some engine issues at Richmond and lost points there. At Darlington, we felt like we had a competitive car, but we had issues there with a loose wheel and getting caught up in a wreck.

At Charlotte, Keselowski had a hard time cracking the top 15 and ultimately was KO’d by a crash that started with contact between the cars of Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

“It seems like, as a team, we’re going through one of those slumps right now,” Wolfe said. “We aren’t hitting the panic button by any means, and Brad has kept a positive attitude through it all.

“Everyone on this team knows what they’re doing. We’ve won races. We’ve won a championship. This weekend, we’re looking forward to buckling down here and getting back on track.”

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