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Keselowski, Logano overcome adversity for strong ACS finishes
- Updated: March 27, 2017
By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer
FONTANA, Calif. — Those Team Penske drivers are a resilient bunch.
They proved it in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday as both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logana battled back for top-10 finishes.
In his No. 2 Wurth Ford, Brad Keselowski was without crew chief Paul Wolfe, who was suspended for three races after Keselowski’s machine failed the post-race rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station at Phoenix last week. Wolfe, who was also fined $65,000, will miss the races at Martinsville and Texas.
Filling in for Wolfe was Brian Wilson, a former lead engineer on the No. 2 team and who had also served as crew chief of the No. 22 Team Penske XFINITY Series entry last season for 24 races; he guided Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano to a win at Las Vegas earlier this season.
So it’s not Wilson’s first time atop a pit box.
Four laps into Sunday’s race, Keselowski spun and brought out the first caution flag. He was forced to make repairs on pit road before it was open. Afterward, he had to go to the tail end of the field. But he fought his way to a third-place finish.
California native Kyle Larson won the race as Keselowski picked up his fourth straight top 5 this year and third straight at the two-mile track.
“I don’t know if we had anything for Kyle [Larson] and those guys,” said Keselowski, who was docked 35 points for the failed inspection. “Car was tore up pretty bad. To get that kind of finish is respectable. Certainly we want to win. Felt like we had a shot to do just that. Didn’t come together, so…
“That’s the way it goes sometimes when you have a 36‑race season. You’re going to have some adversity and days that don’t go your way. That’s the way it was for us today. But we made the most of it, so I’m proud of my guys.”
Logano’s struggles started on Friday, when his No. 22 Pennzoil Ford was unable to clear inspection in time to get his car on track for qualifying. So without turning a lap in time trials, Logano had to start toward the back of the field.
“It was up-and-down for sure,” Logano said. “Our car was really good on the short runs just like yesterday. Our car was good on the short runs and not good on the long runs. We would lose too much time. We tried to short pit them and got caught with the caution and got stuck down a lap with 20 to go or so.
“We were able to recover and at one point I thought we were gonna win the race and had some trouble on pit road and lost some spots again, but we were able to make some of them back up and end up with a top-5 out of it with the Auto Club Fusion. It was up-and-down to say the least for the whole weekend for me.”
Logano made his way to the front quickly, and went on to finish fifth.
“Yeah, I was able to drive up pretty quick to where we were in the top-10 and we kind of stalled out around seventh. We were good on short runs, but would fall off too hard on the long run. We got caught with the caution while we were trying that green-flag cycle with 30 to go or so.
“We lost our track position, but were able to get enough cautions and allow us to fight back into the top-5. I thought, ‘Man, we’ve got a shot at winning this thing.’ We were catching them so fast with a newer tire, but another caution came out and we lost some track position on pit road and then we battled back and kept fighting to get back to fifth.
Logano said the D-shaped Fontana track aided in the comeback as it provided so many different lines to run.
“It was a battle, but this place is a lot of fun,” he said. “The track is so wide and tires mean so much. How crazy is it that we’re pitting with half-a-lap on our tires and we’re putting four more on. That’s pretty cool.”
“Overall, it was a good recovery. Two good recovery days, I guess because we had a short-run car. I guess we need to try to make our car a little bit better on the long run and smooth out some mistakes.”