Thursday, February 20, 2014

CUP: Pit Road and Tire Troubles Keep Keselowski Down In Second Budweiser Duel

Brad Keselowski finished last in Thursday’s Second Budweiser Duel at the Daytona International Speedway.  Keselowski’s #2 Miller Lite Ford finished under power, three laps down.

It was Keselowski’s first-ever last-place finish in this event.  The #2 had not finished last in the Budweiser Duel since 2003, when Rusty Wallace’s Miller Lite Dodge was disqualified from Race 2 for a carburetor violation, invalidating a 4th-place finish.

Wallace was a part of Keselowski’s start to 2014.  In the wake of Keselowski’s unsuccessful title defense, Wallace helped test the #2 in January in an effort dubbed “One Last Round.”  The effort seemed to help, as both drivers were among the fastest of the session.

Keselowski then stormed into Daytona with a runner-up finish in the Sprint Unlimited, followed by the 11th and 21st-fastest speeds in practice.  He then timed in 6th-fastest in qualifying, locking him into the 500 field on speed.  He did not participate in Wednesday’s abbreviated third practice and was only 33rd in the fourth, so it was anyone’s guess how Keselowski would perform from the 3rd spot in the Second Budweiser Duel.

As it turned out, Keselowski had one of the fastest cars on the track.  He led 34 of the race’s first 35 laps, only to fall back in the pack with a two-tire stop.  Moments later, Keselowski was tagged for speeding off pit road.  Having lost a lap, he fell even further back when he cut down a tire on the backstretch, dropping him a total of three laps behind the leaders.

Though Keselowski finished last in the race, he did however avoid the last-lap crash, preserving his Ford for Sunday, when he’ll start 33rd.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Eric McClure, whose damaged fender slowed his 6th-fastest car in Wednesday’s practice, keeping him out of the 500 field along with 72-year-old Morgan Shepherd, who came home 22nd.  Rookies Michael Annett for Tommy Baldwin Racing and HScott Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier rounded out the Bottom Five, but both will start the race in 36th and 40th, respectively.

*Keselowski’s 34 laps led are second only to Trevor Bayne’s 37 in 2013 for the most laps led by a last-place finisher of the Budweiser Duel.

24) #2-Brad Keselowski / 57 laps / running / led 34 laps
23) #35-Eric McClure / 57 laps / running
22) #93-Morgan Shepherd / 59 laps / running
21) #7-Michael Annett / 59 laps / running
20) #51-Justin Allgaier / 59 laps / running

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