Odd man out: Brad Keselowski nearly evens the score at Kentucky

JOLIET, IL - JUNE 30: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Stars Stripes and Lites Ford, drives during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 30, 2018 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski seems to have a penchant for winning at Kentucky in even numbered years.  With three wins at the 1.5-mile track, Keselowski leads all active drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series at Kentucky Speedway

Oddly enough, all three of those wins have come in even numbered years: 2012,2014 and 2016.

He almost added a fourth to the list with the 2018 running of the Quaker State 400.

Almost.

During the early stages of Saturday nights race, Keselowski ran as high as second, after starting fourth. But during a round of green flag pit stops, Keselowski was penalized for speeding on pit road. The resulting pass through sent him back to 19th.

Keselowski apologized to his crew on the team radio and explained that he mistook the white line at the end of pit road, the line that NASCAR uses to determine the running order of the field off pit road, for the yellow line further up; the line that NASCAR uses to determine speed.

The Team Penske driver was able to only make up one position before the end of the first stage, 80 laps.  After adjustments during the ensuing pit stop, Keselowski was able to get near the top 10. Another round of green flag stops started on lap 111 and during those stops, many teams elected to take only 2 tires, Keselowski’s team took 4.  He came out 15th and that’s where he finished the second stage.

It appeared that hopes for a fourth win were gone.

But wait there’s more.

During the stops at the end of stage 2, crew chief Paul Wolfe had the crew change only two tires; a call the put Keselowski in the lead. Surprisingly, Keselowski was able to hold off the rest of the lead pack, most of whom had taken 4 tires. He led until lap 207 when eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. would get past.

There would be a final round of stops shortly after and Keselowski came out 6th. In the closing laps he would run as high as second before getting passed by his Penske teammate Ryan Blaney.

Keselowski would settle for third.

“Coming up and down all night,” Keselowski said. “We ran second behind Martin there at the start and I felt like we were a little bit better than him at the beginning of the race, and as we transitioned into the night, we kind of lost a little bit of speed.

“I got the pit road speeding penalty, which was a real kick in the you‑know‑whats track position‑wise, and my crew chief Paul Wolfe made a good call to get us some track position back, and we took the lead there and were trying to just run, run, run as fast as we could, and Martin just ran us down and got by us pretty honest, so he was just super strong, and that was all we had.”

Now that his even year winning streak has ended at Kentucky, Keselowski can now focus on winning a race, something he has yet to do this season.

“We’ve been good, not great this year, and this is a sport of great,” he said.  “You know, you’ve got to be great to win.  This is the closest we’ve been to great this year on the mile‑and‑a‑halfs.”

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