Phoenix, Ariz. - Brad Keselowski overcame a pit-road speeding penalty and two rain delays in the DC Solar 200 at ISM Raceway (Phoenix) to capture the checkered flag with his Ford Mustang, his first Xfinity Series victory of the season.
Keselowski took the lead for good on Lap 179 of the 200-lap race, a charge to the front that came after battling Christopher Bell (Toyota) side-by-side for the lead just a handful of laps earlier. The victory was Keselowski’s 37th in his career in the Xfinity Series and his second in the series at Phoenix.
The red flag came out twice for rain delays — first, on Lap 47 for 1 hour, 35 minutes, and again on Lap 87 for 26 minutes.
Keselowski earned his pit-road speeding penalty on the stop after Stage 1, and was sent to the rear. He worked his way back up through the field and regained the lead by Lap 143.
Cole Custer came home eighth for Stewart-Haas Racing, giving Ford a pair of top-10 Mustangs. Rookie Kaz Grala, who led eight laps on pit strategy late in the race, finished 12th. Austin Cindric, piloting the No. 60 Mustang was 16th and Ryan Reed 18th to round out the Blue Ovals.
FORD FINISHING RESULTS
1st Brad Keselowski
8th Cole Custer
12th Kaz Grala
16th Austin Cindric
18th Ryan Reed
23rd Dylan Lupton
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang)
Finishing Position: 1st
VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW:
“Brian Wilson made some great adjustments to the car and the weather kind of came to us with what we needed for how our car was handling. It is good to see that work out for everyone at Team Penske with the Fitzgerald Glider Ford Mustang. It was a solid team effort. I wasn’t perfect today by any stretch of the imagination but the car was really strong. Really, really good for about 50-60 laps. The last 20 laps it would fall off pretty good but the guys made it count. I am really proud of them.”
IT SEEMED LIKE YOU HAD A LOT OF GOOD GRIP IN THE CORNERS WHEN YOU AND CHRISTOPHER BELL WERE BATTLING FOR THE LEAD: “Yeah. Christopher was really strong in the long run and I thought he would be more than we could handle but we got on pit road and got new tires on it and our car took back off.”
WERE YOU EASING UP A LITTLE TOWARD THE END OR WAS THE CAR GOING AWAY A BIT?“Justin (Allgaier) ran a great race today. I honestly thought he out-drove me most of the day. He was really strong.”
COLE CUSTER, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang
Finishing Position: 8th
“It was a solid day for our Haas Automation Mustang team. The guys brought me a really good car, we just weren’t able to get the track position that we needed at the front there. Another top-10 finish though, so that is something to be proud of. Everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing is working hard and I think it is showing. We are getting closer and closer.”
KAZ GRALA, No. 24 NETTS Ford Mustang
Finishing Position: 12th
YOU PUT YOURSELVES IN POSITION TO LEAD SOME LAPS TODAY: “Yeah, Shane Wilson made a really, really smart call there. We didn’t have the short run speed we were hoping for but the long run speed was good for us. We were consistent. A P12 finish is our best yet since Daytona and to tell you the truth we beat some teams we probably shouldn’t have as an underdog team. It was a pretty cool run for us. I am really proud of the guys at JGL Racing. They really got this NETTS Mustang hooked up this season. If we keep bringing cars like that to the track we are going to get some top-10’s here pretty soon and you might even see us in the playoffs.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI & BRIAN WILSON POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
BRIAN WILSON, crew chief, No. 22 Ford Mustang -- TAKE US THROUGH THE RACE FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE: “Early on it seemed like we had a pretty strong car which you could definitely tell with this tire that different cars would have really good strong short runs, middle runs and long runs. We felt like that was going to be a key to the race, when the last caution and last pit stop happened to make sure we had the balance right for the length of the run that we were going to end the race on. That is what it came down to. I feel like the guys did a really good job on the last pit stop to get us out side-by-side with the 20 car there and Brad did a good job to pass him in three and four.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, it was an up and down day. I think first thing is kind of credit to NASCAR for just getting the race in. Having the resiliency or whatever the right Nate Ryan word is for sticking it out to make it happen. I think that deserves a lot of credit. You wouldn’t think there would be a lot of rain like there was today in the desert but we found it and we got through it and that was impressive to see. We had a really excellent Mustang to work with today. Brian Wilson and the team did a great job. I made a few mistakes and probably didn’t do a great job driving it and getting out what it had in it but I am proud to bring home the result. It has been kind of a weaker track for me. It feels good to bring one home. Hopefully we will be able to look at it differently for tomorrow and learn a few things.”
YOU MENTIONED THE RAIN. WHAT WAS THE TRACK LIKE? “It was definitely very slick, especially on pit road. The track here for whatever reason does a really good job with dealing with the rain. Usually when you are in the desert the facilities aren’t really built for that but this track does really well with dealing with it. There was probably a good 30 or 40 laps at least during this race at different times where it was raining pretty good and the track was still manageable. A little slick, but manageable. It is a good surface for dealing with that.”
BRIAN WILSON CONTINUED -- DID YOU MAKE ANY SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO THE CAR FROM STAGE 2 TO STAGE 3? “That was kind of the debate that we had. We wanted to make sure that the last lap was a quick one, so we didn’t want to put a wrench in the back window. Listening to Brad’s feedback there, he felt like on the green flag stop we didn’t need anything large. We only did air pressure and a little bit of fuel weight. Fortunately the Fitzgerald Ford was able to pull away there and I think the balance was fairly decent at the end.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED -- “Yeah, we went back and forth with the short run and long run and it seemed everyone was screaming loose to start the run and you had to deal with it and manage it. On the back half of the run, everybody would get so tight and the front tires would go away. It was definitely a little bit of chicken and the egg there.”
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU STRUGGLE ON THIS TRACK? ON THE FLIP SIDE OF THAT ALLGAIER SAID HE LEARNED A LOT FOLLOWING YOU TODAY. “I just, I don’t know. We haven’t had a lot of success here on the Cup side. Our last three or four races have been a flat-out struggle getting anything to happen and getting any kind of result. I don’t have a great answer for that. Sometimes it is cars. Sometimes is it the driver. Sometimes it is where the driver teaks the car, setup wise. I thought Justin drove a phenomenal race today. I thought for most the race he quite honestly out-drove me. I appreciate him saying that but I felt the opposite.”
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FOR THE CUP RACE TOMORROW? “I think there are a lot of things. There were some things on the restarts and on the long runs. Those all will apply way more tomorrow. They were good to learn today and I made some mistakes. I sped down pit-road. Not doing that is something good to learn. In this series you can recover from those mistakes but in the Cup series it is a lot harder. That is a big thing to learn.”
HOW WILL YOU GET FROM 25TH TO 1ST TOMORROW? “I don’t know. Hopefully the team has got the car dialed in and we can make those moves that we need to make. We really have been on both sides of it here with the Cup car and I thought at some points in practice today that we were a top two or three car and in other points a 20th place car. I really don’t know what to expect tomorrow.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF NASCAR GOING GREEN FOR ONE LAP AT THE END OF THE SECOND STAGE? “I thought it was a little strange but I do give them a lot of credit for trying to make the most of the situation with the rain and everything else that was going on. I think they deserve some credit for that.”
THE TWO LONG RED FLAG DELAYS, WHAT DOES THAT DO TO YOUR CAR SITTING AROUND AND WHAT DOES IT DO TO YOU AS A DRIVER SITTING AROUND? “I will let Brian answer the car part but for me it was great. I got to use the bathroom, had something to eat and something to drink. It was actually quite refreshing.”
BRIAN WILSON CONTINUED -- “With short track racing you have to have heat in the tires so you are worried what will happen on the short run until you get that back in. Throughout the day the track really tightened up when it was taking rubber and you wonder how much got washed off the track. The rain wasn’t heavy enough but the Air Titan’s blew a lot of it off. It was about dealing with those swings and the balance of the car and making sure you don’t overadjust on the next stop.