How Keselowski's 'right-switch' led him to victory No. 4 of 2016
WATCH: Keselowski stretches fuel cell to win at Kentucky " No. 2 needed tow truck for Victory Lane When Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Ford began to run out of fuel with barely two laps remaining in last Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway , his crew quickly told him to "get the right switch going, get the right switch going." The Team Penske driver, and 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, was able to keep his engine running and hold off Carl Edwards for his fourth win of the season. If Keselowski was out of fuel, how did he manage to hold off Edwards, continue on and score the victory? The "right switch" his team referred to controlled the fuel pump to the reserve fuel tank, a small secondary unit located inside the car's fuel cell. The small box holds less than a gallon of fuel. As the fuel in the primary cell burns off and the level of the fuel drops, the small amount of fuel, less than one gallon, in the reserve stays constant. Most, if not all, Sprint Cup teams have similar units inside their car's fuel cells. "Basically you're allowed to run like a little Kevlar tank inside your fuel cell," Rodney Childers, crew chief for the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet with Kevin Harvick , said. "It's just a little square box with round hole in it. ... You can basically run the car out of fuel and then flip the switch, which there's a pump inside that little box, and at least get back to pit road." Or in Keselowski's case, to Victory Lane. Fuel mileage and track size can come into play. On a bigger track such as Talladega, Daytona or Indy, for example, the amount in the reserve might not be enough to allow a driver to complete a lap or more at speed. That likely wouldn't be the case on a shorter venue, such as a Bristol or Martinsville. "I'm sure it's different for every team," Richard Childress Racing driver Paul Menard said. "I had to use it (at Kentucky); we were about four laps short and with six laps to go my car stumbled down the frontstretch." While Menard said having such a system can be beneficial, he also noted that it has its drawbacks. "The disadvantage of that -- I could have run one more lap or two more laps without stumbling (had the fuel not been held in the reserve box)," he said. "We don't have fuel gauges so you just go off that fuel pressure."
Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick. A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's , on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan. But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski . It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick. And the JRM/Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. "Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski . But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, "Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick, however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick, in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski , an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard. I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski , now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."
Brad Keselowski wins fuel-mileage game at Kentucky
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Keselowski gear SPARTA, Ky. – Brad Keselowski had his mojo working in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Saving just enough fuel to get to the finish line, Keselowski eked out a heart-thumping victory over Carl Edwards to win his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and his third at Kentucky Speedway. But this was not the same bumpy, abrasive Kentucky Speedway where Keselowski went to Victory Lane in 2012 and 2014. This was a repaved, reconfigured 1.5-mile intermediate track fraught with treachery, especially when combined with the lower-downforce aerodynamic package in use for the race. RELATED: Recap all of Keselowski's wins Keselowski got to the finish line .175 seconds ahead of Edwards, who made up a deficit of more than six seconds in the final 10 laps but couldn't quite get to Keselowski's rear bumper on the final lap. When Keselowski took the checkered flag, his fuel cell was dry. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford didn’t have enough gas to do a celebratory burnout, and he needed a push from a safety truck to get to Victory Lane. Keselowski took the lead from Kevin Harvick after a restart on Lap 200 and held it the rest of the way, except for Lap 261, when Matt Kenseth took the top spot and immediately came to pit road for fuel. By then, the die was cast for Keselowski , who was committed to finishing the race without another fuel stop. "We knew the fuel mileage," said Keselowski , who won for the fourth time this year, the 21st time in his career, and became the first driver to officially clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. "We went out and we set a really fast pace there on that restart and were just using fuel, and then it became obvious that you were going to have to save fuel at the end, but I already used so much. "It's a testament to our guys to have the fuel mileage that we did to be able to get back what I burnt early in the run and get the Miller Lite Ford in Victory Lane. Usually these repaves are kind of my Achilles heel, but to get a win here at Kentucky… I know it's been a good track for us in the past, but this isn't the same Kentucky, I can tell you that. "These cars were tough to drive today, but a good tough. This was a hard-fought battle, and I'm really proud of everybody on the 2 crew to get win number four and take that first place." When Keselowski slowed through Turn 4 on the next-to-last lap, Edwards thought he had the race won, but in retrospect, Edwards believed he had been beaten by a cunning opponent. "Yeah, I thought he was out of fuel coming off of (Turn) 4, but he actually did it very well," Edwards said of Keselowski , who indicated on his radio with more than a lap left that he was out of fuel. "If he didn't beat me, I'd be more impressed… "I guess I'm impressed that he did beat me, but I don't want to be. He waited. He basically shut the car off and went right off of 4 and matched it perfectly to where I couldn't get by him down the front straightaway, and then he ran like heck through 1 and 2, and then I thought maybe he'll run out down the back straight. Man, I dove it down in there trying to catch him into 3, and I couldn't even get to him." RELATED: Edwards discusses finish of race Keselowski , however, said he thought he was out of gas when his car sputtered off Turn 4. "I didn't think I was going to win the race," Keselowski said. Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. dominated the first two-thirds of the event, leading 128 and 46 laps, respectively. Truex had taken the lead off pit road on Lap 196, but NASCAR sent him to the rear of the field for passing Harvick, then the race leader, on the entry to pit road. For the last 68 laps, Truex drove like a madman, advancing from 23rd to as high as third before pitting for fuel and finishing 10th. "It wasn't my night on that deal," Truex said. "It's frustrating, we had the car to beat. We came out with the lead and they took it away from us. It's just the way it goes, I guess." Particularly perilous throughout the race were the flatter of the two corners —Turns 3 and 4 — with the entry to Turn 3 especially daunting. Ten laps into the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pancaked the right side of his No. 17 Ford against the outside wall of the Turn 3 torture chamber. Nor were champions and frontrunners exempt from calamity. On Lap 32, Jimmie Johnson spun through Turn 4 and crumpled the left rear quarter of his No. 48 Chevrolet. On Lap 53, Joey slammed the Turn 3 wall after scraping it 10 laps earlier. On Lap 88, Ryan Blaney spun from the middle of a three-wide dilemma in Turn 3 and took the No. 24 Chevrolet of fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year competitor Chase Elliott with him. On Lap 93, the cars of Brian Scott , Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger were mangled in an eight-car pileup. Lap 194 produced the 11th caution of the race, tying the record set last year, but from a restart on Lap 200 through the finish on Lap 267, the race ran green, and Keselowski was able to squeeze 68 laps out of his fuel cell. "We were totally out at the start/finish line," said Paul Wolfe, Keselowski's crew chief. "So it couldn't have timed out any better." Notes: Kurt Busch ran fourth, followed by Tony Stewart , who scored a top five in his 600th career start… Greg Biffle scored a season-best sixth-place finish… Harvick came home ninth and saw his series points lead shrink to four markers over Keselowski . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Keselowski clinches Chase berth with win at Kentucky
SPRINT CUP SERIES Brad Keselowski officially clinched a berth in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway by having multiple wins and enough points to remain in the top 30 of the standings for the rest of the regular season. HOW IT HAPPENED Keselowski formally locked up his postseason berth with a win at Kentucky (his fourth this season and third career win at Kentucky) and help from the rest of the field as his 595 driver points give him the needed 361-point cushion over the 31st-place driver in the standings, Brian Scott (217). No matter what happens the rest of the regular season, Keselowski can't fall below 30th in the standings. CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES William Byron and Matt Crafton officially clinched berths this weekend in Kentucky in the inaugural eight-driver NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase. HOW IT HAPPENED William Byron: Byron won at Kentucky, his fourth victory of the season, and clinched a spot in the top 30 in points no matter what happens in the remainder of the regular season. Matt Crafton : Due to a tight points race around the 31st position, Crafton exited Kentucky guaranteed to finish in the top 30 in points by the end of the regular season. He also has two regular-season series wins, so there's no way he'll fall outside the top 30 in points. He's in. XFINITY SERIES No XFINITY Series drivers have clinched a Chase spot yet.
After snub, Gordon finds an ally in Keselowski
NASCAR Nation was angry Wednesday night. Very angry. Retired NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon was not among the sports legends honored on stage at the 2016 ESPY Awards, with the retired Abby Wambach (U.S. Soccer), Kobe Bryant (NBA) and Peyton Manning (NFL) all in the spotlight. We can't publish the Twitter responses, but a simple search of " Jeff Gordon ESPYs" will do the trick. Or just take a look at Gordon's wife, Ingrid's, Twitter response on Thursday. @espn pic.twitter.com/FJVoIEDMtI — Ingrid Vandebosch (@ivandebosch) July 14, 2016 Gordon also received support from perhaps an unlikely ally. Brad Keselowski , known off the track for his deep thoughts and social media musings, offered the below, to which Gordon would respond. Part I find most interesting is that NASCAR and @JeffGordonWeb were a key cornerstone to build @ESPN to where it is. https://t.co/ordyHyPKPG — Brad Keselowski (@ keselowski ) July 14, 2016 Can't say I'm that surprised but all I know is my racing career & life would've been much different without @espn . https://t.co/kxmsvTrmDG — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) July 14, 2016 Those two famously fought at Texas Motor Speedway in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup following an on-track incident. Keselowski also criticized certain aspects of Gordon's commentary in the FOX broadcast booth, although the two had a cordial sit-down interview the next week and were at ease chatting about major topics in the sport. So it seems like Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon are … BFFs? RELATED: A sitdown with Brad and Jeff
1-on-1: Keselowski finds first Daytona win in 250th NSCS start
Jonathan Merryman talks in Victory Lane with Brad Keselowski , who makes the most of a milestone day for Team Penske by earning the organization's 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in Keselowski's 250th start in the series.
Keselowski stretches his fuel to win at Kentucky
Brad Keselowski stretches his fuel mileage just enough to hold off Carl Edwards in the final lap at Kentucky Speedway.
Keselowski's all-American burnout at Daytona
Brad Keselowski's burnout following his victory at Daytona International Speedway was a perfect fit for a 4th of July celebration.
Keselowski's tow-truck assist at Kentucky
With the "Blue Deuce" running on empty, Brad Keselowski gets an assist on the way to Victory Lane.
Roger Penske defends Logano and Keselowski after Daytona
Roger Penske joined SiriusXM radio defending both Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski after the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.