By Patrick Rall
Week #4 for the 2012 NASCAR season brought the Nationwide
and Sprint Cup Series racers to the fastest half mile oval in the world in
Bristol Tennessee. Team Dodge used this
high speed short track to their advantage – with Brad Keselowski finishing 3rd
in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday and bringing home the win in the
Sunday Sprint Cup race.
Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Bristol was less than kind to its sponsor, with Ford’s Ricky Steinhouse finishing in 6th. Brad
Keselowski in his #22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger started 7th and
ran strong all day, finishing 3rd behind a pair of Chevys driven by
Kasey Kahne and Elliot Sadler. Sam
Hornish Jr drove his #12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger to a 13th
place finish (started 23rd) while the only other Dodge in the field,
the #81 car driven by rookie Jason Bowles finished 25th after
starting in the 34th position.
Hornish Jr. still sits in 6th place in Nationwide Series
season standings (49 points behind leader Elliot Sadler) while Jason Bowles
moved up three spots to the 19th position, sitting 114 points off of
the leading pace. Brad Keselowski is not
involved in the championship standings for the Nationwide Series.
Sunday brought about the NASCAR “bigs”, as the Sprint Cup
took to the Bristol half mile for the Food City 500. The only two Dodge entries in the Sunday
Sprint Cup race where Brad Keselowski in his #2 Miller Lite Charger and
teammate AJ Allmendinger in his #22 Shell/Pennzoil Charger. Both of these team Penske cars qualified very
well; with Allmendinger starting on the outside of row 1 in second place while
Keselowski started in 5th spot.
Early in the race, AJ Allmendinger was near the front of the
field with his #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger. AJ took the lead on lap 42 and led the field
for 54 laps before he ran into handling problems that effectively ended his
race. His car became very loose and
although the team worked to repair the problem, his loose conditions forced him
back in the field and he was unable to make up that ground. Allmendinger finished a disappointing 17th
place – 2 laps down.
Things started quite differently for Brad Keselowski, who was
involved in an early accident on lap 23 that took out several of the front
runners but Keselowski’s #2 Miller Lite Charger sustained only minor
damage. The #2 Charger was strong early
but the car only got better as the race went on and on lap 217, Keselowski took
the lead for the first time. The #2
Charger went on to lead 232 of the last 283 laps and thanks to some strategic
moves during a late race caution – Keselowski was able to hang on and win the
race in what he called the best car he has had in the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Thanks to his win in the Food City 500, Brad Keselowski has
moved up 8 spots to the 13th position in the Sprint Cup season
standings while AJ Allmendinger climbed 4 spots to 26th.
The NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series both head to
Fontana California for next week’s Royal Purple 300 and Auto Club 400.