Engine change sends Keselowski to rear for Sunday’s race

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 22:  Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, sits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2013 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

FONTANA, CA – MARCH 22: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, sits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2013 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

FONTANA, Calif. — Before Friday’s practice session at Auto Club Speedway, Brad Keselowski said it might be a good thing that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series engines are being stressed by higher speeds and high sustained RPMs.

In retrospect, after his No. 2 Penske Racing Ford team changed engines before Friday’s qualifying session, Keselowski might want to retract that opinion.

There’s no doubt that NASCAR’s new Gen-6 race cars are fast. At a two-mile track such as Auto Club, however, sustained speed can create potential problems for the power plants.

“There is no doubt that this car is so fast that we’re carrying more speed than we’ve ever carried pretty much at every track,” Keselowski said before practice. “That isn’t a bad thing, but it puts a lot of stress on the engines. There’s a certain gear ratio we use to dictate what RPM band the cars are in, and, to this point, we’ve been using last year’s model, which has put more stress on the engines with more speed.

“Maybe that’s a good thing, too. I don’t know. I think it pushes the teams to make their stuff a little better, and that’s what this sport is about, constant evolution.”

Two hours later, the team was changing engines. Early in the practice session, the engine in Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford Fusion had blown, for an engine change in that car, too.

In compliance with NASCAR’s one-engine rule, both Keselowski and Biffle must start from the rear of the field on Sunday. The Cup points leader and defending series champion, Keselowski will face a formidable challenge as he attempts to record his fifth straight top-five finish to start the season.

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