Conservative approach in practice pays off for Keselowski

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 20: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Will Schneekloth/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Will Schneekloth/Getty Images)
LOUDON, NH – SEPTEMBER 20: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Will Schneekloth/Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H.—Brad Keselowski didn’t exactly burn up the track in his first practice laps on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That’s because he was taking a conservative approach, trying to get some “burn” into his tires.

Keselowski spent his first lap of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour scrubbing his tires, trying to warm the Goodyears up to racing temperature on a September morning that was unusually crisp, even for the Granite State. As a result, Keselowski’s opening lap was clocked at roughly 93 mph.

Just as he had done during opening practice—in even cooler conditions—Keselowski soon vaulted to the top of the speed chart at 135.256 mph, leap-frogging over Jimmie Johnson (135.040 mph), who briefly owned the best lap in final practice.

“It’s really hard to get the tires up to temperature and get going,” Keselowski said between the two sessions, the last two practices before Sunday’s Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). “Goodyear brings a great tire here that’s made to run in heat with all the brake heat and all those things, so when the track is really cold like this, the first few laps are really dangerous.

“Everybody is kind of fighting that, but the temperatures should be up for tomorrow’s race, and even for the next practice session that shouldn’t be an issue.”

It was enough of an issue, however, for Keselowski to play it close to the vest in Happy Hour before he got some heat into the tires.

But Keselowski’s top speed didn’t stand up. Jeff Gordon, who finished second to the No. 2 Team Penske Ford in last Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland, rocketed to the top of the speed chart with a lap at 135.357 mph late in the session, a clear indication the four-time champ isn’t quite ready to concede a New Hampshire sweep to the Chase leader.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.