It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Brad Keselowski was just a fresh faced young kid hoping to make his mark in NASCAR. After making his fulltime debut in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series in 2010, Keselowski scored only two top 10s. In the Nationwide series however Keselowski went on a tear winning six races in route to the season ending title.
Team owner Roger Penske liked what he saw and in 2011 moved Keselowski’s Nationwide crew chief Paul Wolfe up to the Sprint Cup series. Keselowski and Wolfe won three races in 2011 and finished fifth in the season standings.
In 2012 however, the Keselowski-Wolfe pairing has been seemingly unstoppable. On Sunday, Keselowski scored his fifth season win, the latest coming at Dover International Speedway, a track where Keselowski had struggled in the past.
“It’s a long race. 400 miles at Dover, it’s darn grueling, to be honest,” Keselowski said. “My team just kept at it all race long. We made some adjustments, made our car a little bit better here and there. I was really proud of that effort.”
That effort was led by Wolfe who played the fuel mileage game to perfection over the closing laps.
“I monitored the race as it was playing out, understanding where some of the other cars were mileage-wise, I felt like we were as good or better than the guys running in front of us,” Wolfe said. “That obviously put us in the position to run the way we did and put the pressure on the 48 (Jimmie Johnson).”
View slideshow: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, Sunday September 30, 2012
Indeed Keselowski and Wolfe have put the pressure on Johnson on several occasions. Sunday Johnson led 43 laps and was favored to win. Keselowski and Wolfe’s strategy meant he was able to save more fuel and leapfrog past Johnson who was forced to slow down and conserve as the laps wound down.
Keselowski had never finished better than 12th in the last five races at Dover. As they’ve done elsewhere though, Keselowski and Wolfe didn’t overwhelm the field, they didn’t dominate (Keselowski led only 14 laps), they simply played the strategy game better than anyone else and that has proved disastrous for the rest of the field.
“It’s not always the fastest car that wins,” Wolfe said Sunday. “At this point in the season, it doesn’t really matter how you get to Victory Lane, it’s just getting there.”
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