News & Media


Menzer: Keselowski still smiling through pain

August 16, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Runner-up Keselowski putting on a show after suffering injuries in testing

As Brad Keselowski sat slumped on the pit-road wall shortly after completion of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International, a smile spread across his face despite the pain throbbing in his back and broken left ankle.

One week after driving through the pain to reach Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway, which came only four days after he suffered the injuries during a test session gone awry at Road Atlanta, Keselowski nearly pulled off the incredible feat again. He was leading Sunday's race at the 2.45-mile road course with less than two laps remaining in a green-white-checkered finish, only to be passed by race winner Marcos Ambrose.

"I could not ask for more. I think I'll go and break my other foot."

--BRAD KESELOWSKI

Keselowski had darted to the lead on the final restart of the day, going from third to first on a daring move in his No. 2 Dodge. But he could not hold off the No. 9 Ford driven by Ambrose for long, and almost as quickly gave up the lead.

"I felt like we were one of the cars to beat. But I just wasn't quite good enough to pull it off there and made a couple small mistakes at the end," Keselowski said.

In securing the second-place finish, however, Keselowski made the day's biggest move of any driver in the point standings -- jumping up four spots from 18th to 14th. With two race victories overall this season (he also won earlier at Kansas), Keselowski is poised to claim one of the two wild-card berths into the Chase.

"At least we moved up a bunch in the points, which is good," Keselowski said.

If he jumps another four spots between now and the Sept. 10 race at Richmond that is the last before the Chase field is set, Keselowski will creep into the top 10 in the points and not even have to worry about getting in as a wild card.

Keselowski has proven this season that he can be a contender on all types of tracks. In the past five races, he's finished seventh at Kentucky, ninth at Indianapolis, first at Pocono and now second at Watkins Glen. In his three previous Sprint Cup efforts on road courses, he had never finished in the top five.

He said there was no shame in losing to Ambrose, who is considered one of the sport's finest road-course racers.

"Marcos is the guy you know you have to beat at these road courses before you ever unload the car off the tailgate," Keselowski said. "He proves it week in and week out on these road courses. He put it all together [Monday]. He had a fast race car and he brought home the win. If there is a guy to lose to, that's the guy to lose to.

"We were able to get to the lead, but Marcos was just better than me and out-executed me."

Paul Wolfe, Keselowski's crew chief, said he was pleased with his driver's effort as well.

"It was an awesome run. I'm really proud of the effort. These guys continue to build fast Dodge Chargers and we're having shots at winning races," Wolfe said. "Brad did an amazing job despite playing hurt. He dug in and gave us a great race.

"He's come a long way the last few months and it's great to see his hard work pay off. To be a championship team, you have to be good on every type of track we race at and we're proving that we can run anywhere right now."

Wolfe admitted he was concerned about the No. 2 Dodge possibly running out of fuel before the end of the race -- especially when a late caution produced a green-white-checkered finish. Had there been another one, the solid finish would have disappeared.

"We were close. We knew that we had enough to make one green-white-checkered run," Wolfe said. "After that, I think that we would have had to come in and pit. So it was really close. Brad did an awesome job saving us fuel and that was the difference."

Keselowski also injured his back and suffered other less severe injuries during the wreck in which he broke his ankle. He admitted the pain bothered him during the two hours and 16 minutes he was strapped into the car for Monday's race, which was run one day later than originally scheduled because of rain showers that swamped the track Sunday.

The rain held off Monday morning. But dark clouds and fog hovered over the track much of the race, keeping the ambient temperature down and the inside of Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge at least more manageable.

"I was thankful for the cooler temps," he said. "It kept my foot from burning up. It wasn't a joy ride, that's for sure. But when the car is fast, you can make it work."

Since suffering his injuries, no one in the Sprint Cup garage has made it work better.

"I could not ask for more," said Keselowski, breaking into another grin. "I think I'll go and break my other foot."