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Tire strategy proves costly for Keselowski, Smith

July 30, 2012, ,

Track position is paramount at a place like Indianapolis, a narrow track with flat corners where passing is at a premium. But as Brad Keselowski and Regan Smith proved on Sunday, the strategy to move to the front can backfire if your tires are too worn to make it work.

Using an alternative fuel mileage strategy, Keselowski began pitting out of sequence with the rest of the field on Lap 59. When everyone else stopped under green several laps later, Keselowski found himself in the lead. He stayed in there until he had to pit again on Lap 90.

Three laps later, Casey Mears crashed to bring out the caution. Keselowski stayed out and resumed the lead. He was joined in the front row by Smith, who gambled by taking fuel only on his stop, while eventual winner Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the leader stuck with conventional strategy and took four fresh tires.

On the restart, Smith was able to stay on the outside of Keselowski through the first two corners, causing Keselowski to lose grip. He slid sideways and was able to keep from spinning out, but he lost a number of positions. Smith then was swallowed up by cars with fresher rubber.

Keselowski wound up with a ninth-place finish, while Smith eventually dropped back to 18th.

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