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Happy Hour: Past success at BMS has Penske duo eager to race

March 17, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Coming off August victory, Keselowski says success at Bristol contagious

Many times when the winner of the last race at a particular track is asked what he can carry over to the next event at that venue, the answer is not much.

Not so at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Brad Keselowski, who won the last Sprint Cup race there last August, expects some of the magic he experienced that night to carry over to Sunday's Food City 500 at the .533-mile short track.

"If there's one track where being a past winner is most helpful it is certainly Bristol," Keselowski said prior to Saturday's final practice. "I think you look at the stretches certain drivers tend to get on here, and how rhythm-sensitive this track is -- and it just shows you that if you get hot here, you can stay hot here more than anywhere else."

"If there's one track where being a past winner is most helpful it is certainly Bristol."

--BRAD KESELOWSKI

Keselowski remained hot enough during Saturday's Happy Hour, with the fastest lap of 121.682 miles per hour he turned in his No. 2 Dodge ranking tied for third on the speed chart with David Reutimann's No. 10 Chevrolet. Ryan Newman was fastest in his No. 39 Chevy with a top lap of 121.883 mph, followed closely by Kyle Busch in his No. 18 Toyota (121.836 mph). Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five for the practice with a fast lap of 121.628 mph in his No. 5 Chevy.

Much is different now from when Keselowski won at Bristol under the lights last August. For starters, Sunday's race will be run during the day. Keselowski and his fellow competitors also are running race cars now that have engines powered by electronic fuel injection -- which Keselowski and his Penske Racing teammate, AJ Allmendinger, have found to be troublesome in their Dodge-powered cars.

But Keselowski, who had a strong car last week at Las Vegas before being slowed by a fuel-pump problem that also plagued Allmendinger, said he's confident what helped him look so dominant as he led the final 79 laps to win the August race can be duplicated Sunday.

"It's a rhythm track and the setup here is so much different than anywhere else," Keselowski said. "It's hard to develop setups for here. So the only time you really develop them is when you're here."

Keselowski added that qualifying well is very important at Bristol, so he was pleased that he qualified fifth on Friday. He will start on the inside of Row 3 next to Regan Smith in Sunday's race.

"Qualifying is important here and it keeps getting more and more important, I can tell you that. ... The pit-stall selection is incredibly important," Keselowski said.

As good as Keselowski was in qualifying, his teammate was better. Allmendinger qualified second, just a fraction behind pole winner Greg Biffle, and will start on the outside of the front row.

Even though Allmendinger was only 17th-fastest in Happy Hour with a fast lap of 121.182 mph, the Penske pair hopes to parlay Friday's qualifying prowess and Keselowski's past success at the track into strong finishes Sunday. With Keselowski entering the race 21st in points after two 32nd-place finishes in the first three races and with Allmendinger 30th in points, both know they could use them.

"I feel like the cars have speed and that's never been a problem. Last week before the fuel-pump problem, Brad was in position to have a chance to win -- and we were up there early and just needed track position to be up front. So I feel like the cars are fast," Allmendinger said.

"On our end -- the No. 22 side of it -- it's just about gelling together. You know for [crew chief] Todd [Gordon], some of these tracks are the first time he's seen 'em and definitely the first time he's seen 'em in a Cup car. Myself, I'm just trying to work together with Todd. But what's fun about it is that we get along really well. We can talk after the race and figure out the problems, talk during the week. And I feel like every track we go to, we're going to have fast race cars. It's just a matter of getting some luck and fixing some small problems."