For all the focus put on individual drivers, NASCAR is a team sport.
In football, a quarterback needs to be able to read the defense and anticipate several plays ahead – but it is the team that helps execute his plan. NASCAR racing has some of those same elements, and according to NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte that is precisely where Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team excel.
“Brad Keselowski has always been a very cerebral driver,” Letarte said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “He’s always thought how he could do it differently. How he can do it better. More than just one corner or one lap. Whether it’s pit strategy with Paul Wolfe, whether it’s getting in and out of the pit box – he seems to always be looking for an advantage.”
That is the key to Keselowski’s recent success. He has won three of the most important races of the season: the Southern 500, Brickyard 400, and the first playoff race. And he’s won them in consecutive weeks.
The driver has done his job behind the wheel, but he’s been provided the opportunity by his team.
“He did a nice job at Darlington, managing one of the toughest racetracks on the circuit, leaving himself in a position for someone else to make a play,” Letarte said. “And that other person was his pit crew. They made the play at Darlington.
“Go to Indianapolis and once again – doesn’t have the best car, needs another team member to make a play. At Indianapolis, it was Paul Wolfe that made the play … at Indianapolis, he has the freshest tires. He did get a lucky yellow at the end, but they put themselves in a position to use those tires.”
Races are won and lost in the pits. Beating Kyle Larson out of the pits at Darlington was the key to Keselowski’s Southern 500 win. But perhaps the best example of the contribution by his crew came at Las Vegas.
“The difference at Las Vegas was that it wasn’t just a moment – it wasn’t one pit call – it wasn’t one pit stop,” Letarte said. “It was domination on pit road by that pit crew all day long that gave Brad Keselowski the chance to win.”
Keselowski regularly made up positions on pit row, leaving as the leader on Laps 112, 150, 184, 218 and 234.
“The second-place car comes off Turn 2 (in) third, sometimes fourth,” Letarte said. “We saw a lot of wheel spin and trouble on the restarts, but being the leader allowed Brad Keselowski to continue to set the tone.”
It can look like luck – or perhaps, another driver hopes it is luck so that it can be discounted.
“Brad clearly found the horseshoe. Three races in a row, he’s won – he has not had the best car,” Martin Truex Jr. said from the Las Vegas media center after finishing third to Keselowski. “Obviously he hasn’t led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short run speed.”
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