Salvage job for Keselowski, Wolfe at Kentucky
July 01, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
SPARTA, Ky. -- The back end of his car destroyed and hopes of a good finish or possibly a win dashed, Brad Keselowski appeared to have little reason to climb back into the car.
After surveying the damage, crew chief Paul Wolfe could have instructed the Penske Racing crew to “load it up.”
The Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway hadn’t reached the 50-lap mark when Kurt Busch sent his car rocketing down across the frontstretch apron, catching the left-rear quarterpanel of Keselowski’s Ford as it shot back up onto the track.
Keselowski’s car slid toward the first turn before it was hammered from behind by the fast-closing entry of Greg Biffle.
Seven cars were involved in the accident. The race, already delayed a day due to rain, was red-flagged for nearly 20 minutes as safety workers attended to those caught up in the hard crash and cleaned the track of debris.
“It was borderline whether we could get it out there, it was that bad,” Wolfe said afterward.
It’s been that kind of year for Keselowski, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, who had been running inside the top 10 only moments earlier. Winless now through this year’s 17 races, Keselowski has only one finish inside the top 12 in his last eight starts.
His car came back to pit road with the aid of a wrecker while Keselowski made the trip to the infield care center.
But while his day seemed done, neither Keselowski nor his team seemed willing to toss in the towel. Following a lengthy stay in the garage, a slightly less aerodynamic version of the No. 2 entry rolled back out onto the track.
“We had truck arm mounts bent, broken; the oil tank was busted out of it, rear end housing (damaged),” said Wolfe. “The whole rear of the car was pretty much destroyed.
“The front end wasn’t too bad, other than just the splitter and body, that kind of stuff broke loose. Probably the rear suspension and truck arm mounts being broken was probably the biggest challenge.”
But the team felt the chance to gain positions and points, even if only a few, was worth the extra effort.
“Absolutely. We’re not in a good position by any means,” he said. “I don’t know where the points stand at this time, but I’m sure we’re out of the top 10 now.
“At this moment, every point counts. … I think it’s important now seeing how much we could gain by getting it back out there.”
The 33rd-place finish was one of Keselowski’s worst of the season, and dropped him to 13th in points. Until now, he had managed to hold onto a spot in the top 10 in points -- crucial for those hoping to be in the mix when the Chase For The Sprint Cup gets under way later this year.
Even though he was more than 100 laps down, and his car was badly damaged, repairs were made and the driver headed back out. In the end, six points were gained. Those points could be the difference in defending his championship and watching others battle for the title.
There are, Wolfe said, “opportunities to win races. We’ve got some good tracks coming up … we’ll see how the next month goes.”
If that means getting more aggressive with race strategy as the team looks to regain lost ground and contend for wins? “We’re not afraid to do that,” he said.