Darlington, SC – Brad Keselowski, driver of the Penske Racing No. 22 Ruby Tuesday Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, finished seventh in the Royal Purple 200 presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts at Darlington Raceway on Friday night. The result ends an eight-race streak of top-five finishes for the team.
Keselowski now leads the Nationwide Series driver point standings by 55 points over second-place contender Kyle Busch.
Keselowski began the day with a 2.5-hour practice session, in which he posted the fourth-fastest time as he lapped the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval in 28.437 seconds, or 172.930 miles per hour. He improved upon that time in the afternoon qualifying session, despite the increase in track temperatures from practice, as he lapped the oval in 28.049 seconds, or 175.322 miles per hour. The effort secured the third starting position for the Ruby Tuesday team.
The 147-lap race featured nine caution flags for a total of 42 laps. The first yellow flag fell early on lap two. Having a bigger picture in mind, Keselowski took it easy and let the race come to him in the early going. As a result he dropped back in the field by ten spots within the first 20 laps, but he settled into a nice rhythm and posted laps as fast as the race leader.
When the second caution flag of the race was displayed, Keselowski radioed that he was tight coming off the corners. Crew chief Paul Wolfe called his driver down pit road for two tires with air pressure adjustments on lap 26. As a result, the No. 22 Ruby Tuesday Dodge picked up six positions and Keselowski restarted the race on lap 31 in the fourth position.
By lap 50, Keselowski had raced his way into the second position. Despite a handling condition that had moved to loose, he was able to make large gains in time on the leader. However, another caution flag flew on lap 57, which kept Keselowski from assuming the lead. He remained inside the top-five in the running order for the next 70 laps, but was unable to mount another charge for the lead.
When the seventh caution flag of the evening flew on lap 121, Wolfe had to decide whether to leave Keselowski on the track in order to keep his third-place running position, or bring him down pit road for four fresh Goodyear radials and adjustments. The team opted to pit, in the hopes of giving Keselowski what he needed to pick up his third Nationwide Series victory in a row. However, many of the other competitors elected to take on two tires and, as a result, Keselowski restarted the race in the 12th position.
When the race resumed under the green flag on lap 129, it was evident that Keselowski had a car that could contend for a top-five finish as he was able to quickly pass several of the cars in front of him. However, the team ran out of laps as two more caution flags fell before the race came to a conclusion.
Keselowski was able to keep his Nationwide Series record of 77 consecutive races without a DNF (Did Not Finish) alive by taking the checkered flag.
Penske Racing teammate Justin Allgaier finished 17th after a late-race incident.
“This is a place that I’ve run and never got a top 10, so I’m pretty pumped right now,” stated Keselowski. “The guys that we’re racing in points, the 18 and 33, were in front and behind us, so the points didn’t change much tonight. I’ll just chalk it up to a decent night. We probably could have gotten a third-place finish out of the race if we didn’t pit and take four tires. We made the move that we thought was our best shot to win the race and in the end, all those cautions just killed us.”
The No.22 Ruby Tuesday Dodge Charger team will move to the state of Delaware for the Helluva! Good 200 at Dover International Speedway. The race can be seen live on Saturday afternoon, May 15 on the ABC television network beginning at 2:00 p.m. EDT. The event can also be heard live on MRN Radio, as well as Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 128.
About Ruby Tuesday
Ruby Tuesday, Inc. has company-owned and/or franchise Ruby Tuesday brand restaurants in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and 13 foreign countries. As of December 1, 2009, the company owned and operated 670 Ruby Tuesday restaurants, while domestic and international franchisees (including Hawaii) operated 171 and 55 restaurants, respectively. Ruby Tuesday, Inc. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (Symbol: RT).
For information about Ruby Tuesday, please visit the company website at www.rubytuesday.com or on Facebook at www.facebook/rubytuesday.
About Penske Racing
In 2010, Penske Racing will compete in the NASCAR Cup Series with former Cup Series champion Kurt Busch and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, former three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge and Brad Keselowski in the No. 12 Penske Dodge. The team will also race in the Nationwide Series with Justin Allgaier, the 2009 series Rookie of the Year, in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge and multiple race-winner Keselowski driving the No. 22 Discount Tire and Ruby Tuesday Dodge. Competing in a variety of disciplines, cars owned and prepared by Penske Racing have produced more than 310 major race wins, over 370 pole positions and 22 national championships.
For more information about Penske Racing, please visit www.penskeracing.com.