The Inside Line: Bristol and the 'Blue Deuce'

4:01 PM, Mar 19, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Brad Keselowski might be the "new king" of Bristol Motor Speedway, but Penske Racing and its famed "Blue Deuce," the No. 2 Miller Lite car, have long been a royalty at this East Tennessee racetrack.

Keselowski won a Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol for the first time last August. Many considered his victory there to be a fluke, especially driving with a broken left ankle at the time. But Keselowski proved his critics wrong by winning Sunday's Food City 500 in dominating fashion. The 28-year-old driver led a race-high and career-high 232 laps. He also fended off several challenges from Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth during the final 100 laps to claim his second straight victory at Bristol.

"The fall race was a great win, but when you win one and people tell you it was a fluke, you just want to drive that much harder to win the second," Keselowski said.

Keselowski became the 12th different driver to win two or more consecutive races at Bristol. He also gave team owner Roger Penske his 10th victory there, which placed him in a tie with Jack Roush for second on the track's all-time winning car owners list. Junior Johnson holds the track record with 16 wins.

All of Penske's victories at Bristol have come with the No. 2 car. Rusty Wallace started the trend in 1991. Wallace won at Bristol seven times during his tenure with Penske, while Kurt Busch gave "The Captain" a win there in 2006.

"It's kind of weird how that is," said Paul Wolfe, who has been Keselowski's crew chief on the No. 2 team since last year. "From what I know in the past, I feel like it's more just coincidence than anything. The 'Blue Deuce' has always been successful here. From a team side of it, I don't know if there's anything you can point out that says that's why Penske has always been good at Bristol. Just had good drivers and good teams. With that, we get the results."

Bristol is one of the most popular tracks in NASCAR, but it's also one of the toughest places to win. So for the No. 2 team to continue its trips to victory lane there is indeed astounding.

"There's other places that perhaps have a little more prestige, but this place defines a race team," Keselowski said. "It asks so much of you, whether it's just in practice, being lined up on pit road, dealing with the noise, the havoc that practice can be, or the hot day of getting through tech, making those last adjustments, or as a driver 500 laps in a bowl trying to keep your composure. This racetrack can really test a team."

Keselowski's win at Bristol moved him from 21st to 13th in the point standings. He began the season with a 32nd-place finish at Daytona after being caught up in a late-race, multi-car crash there. Keselowski bounced back with a fifth-place run at Phoenix before having another disappointing finish of 32nd at Las Vegas.

Keselowski flourish in his second full season in NASCAR's premier series last year, earning a spot in the 12-driver field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He claimed one of the two wild card positions by virtue of his three wins during the regular season. Keselowski finished the year fifth in points.

With four races completed this season, Keselowski's one victory gives him an upper hand in securing a position in this year's Chase, which will be decided when the regular season concludes on Sept. 8 at Richmond.

"One win is good; two wins is really good," he said. "We need to keep winning races to lock ourselves in the Chase, but, heck, I'd rather just go into the Chase in the top spot. If we run like we have the last few weeks, we've got as good a shot as anybody else."

One thing is for sure right now, Keselowski has figured out Bristol so well that it won't be surprising at all if he and the Blue Deuce are back in victory lane for the nighttime race there on Aug. 25.

The Sports Network

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