The Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (1.366-mile oval, Darlington, SC)
No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion driven by Brad Keselowski | No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion driven by Joey Logano
Saturday, May 11, 6:45 pm ET
THE NEWS AND NOTES
· REDUCTION: On Tuesday afternoon Penske Racing had its penalties from the race at Texas Motor Speedway heard by NASCAR Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook, who reduced the suspensions for crew chief Paul Wolfe, car chief Jerry Kelley, lead engineer Brian Wilson and competition director Travis Geisler from seven races to three. The group will begin serving their suspensions this weekend at Darlington.
· LADY IN BLACK HAS BEEN KIND: Keselowski is known as one of the toughest competitors in the Cup Series. Yet he has been able to play nice with the “Lady in Black.” Statistically one of his best tracks, Keselowski has never finished outside the top 15 in his four starts at the unique oval. He has an average finishing position of 9.3 at Darlington.
· CAREER TURNING POINT: In May of 2011, Keselowski entered the Southern 500 with only two top-10 Cup Series finishes in his Penske Racing career. His third-place finish at Darlington that weekend seemed to set in motion a rapid rise to championship contention. A few weeks later, Keselowski won the pole for the Coca-Cola 600. He followed that up the very next week with his first Penske Racing Cup Series win at Kansas Speedway. The rest, as they say, is history, capped off by the 2012 Cup Series title.
· MOTHER’S DAY: Keselowski’s mother, Kay, will be in attendance this weekend, along with many other mothers of the drivers and teams in the field.
· WIND TUNNEL HOST: Keselowski will co-host “Wind Tunnel” with Dave Despain on Sunday night at 8 pm on SPEED.
· MOTHER NATURE NOT A FAN: Joey Logano and Mother Nature might not be seeing eye-to-eye these days. Last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, Logano had raced his way up to third when rains came and set off a three-hour rain delay. However, the weather cleared up and the race resumed. And when it did, Logano continued to run up front before eventually succumbing to an engine issue that was caused by a small hole in the radiator that allowed all the water to escape.
· ROLLER COASTER: Logano has truly had a roller coaster season so far in 2013. After finding himself as positioned as high as eighth in the point standings, Logano’s last six races have been a mixture of up and down results. Logano dominated at Auto Club Speedway before eventually finishing third. He followed that up with a 23rd-place finish at Martinsville. A top-five run at Texas was followed by an early crash at Kansas. And a third-place effort at Richmond was followed by last week’s 35th at Talladega.
· LADY IN BLACK COASTER AS WELL: It’s not just the 2013 season, but Logano’s career at Darlington that can also be described as a roller-coaster ride. Logano has two top-10 finishes at Darlington (a ninth and a 10th) along with two finishes outside of the top 25. His career-best qualifying effort at the legendary track is fifth, which came in his rookie season.
· MOTHER’S DAY: Logano’s mother, Deb, will be at the track this weekend to help celebrate Mother’s Day. Deb has been an integral part of Logano’s career and still runs his Fan Club.
Race: Bojangles’ Southern 500
Track: Darlington Raceway
Date: Saturday, May 11
Race Start Time: 6:45 pm ET
Radio Broadcast: Live on MRN and SIRIUS XM Channel 90
· 6:45 pm ET, Southern 500 (FOX)
THE Q & A
BRAD KESELOWSKI, NO. 2 MILLER LITE FORD
WHAT WOULD A WIN AT DARLINGTON MEAN TO YOU?
“To me, the Southern 500 is one of the crown jewel races on our schedule. I think it’s right there below the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Coca-Cola 600, as far as prestige. Very few racetracks can match the history and significance of Darlington Raceway. I love the tracks that demand a lot out of you as a driver, and Darlington certainly fits that bill. Even though I haven’t won there yet, I have to believe that it’s an amazing feeling because if you win at Darlington you know that you have not only beaten 42 of the best drivers in the world, you’ve beaten one of the toughest circuits in the world too.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE REDUCTION OF THE TEAM’S SUSPENSIONS?
“From the beginning we felt that the penalties were a little harsh so I’m glad that John Middlebrook saw it the same way. We were hoping for the best but we are happy with the outcome. Now we are going to test the depth of our Miller Lite Ford team. Improving the depth was something that I was really big on when I came here in 2009. We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were then. Our focus now is on getting back to racing and winning.”
JOEY LOGANO, NO. 22 SHELL-PENNZOIL FORD
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE UP-AND-DOWN SEASON YOU’VE HAD SO FAR?
“It’s frustrating for sure, because it’s not really a true representation of how well this Shell-Pennzoil team has run. I’d say since California, we’ve have a great car each and every week with maybe the exception of Martinsville, where we just missed it. We have had some great top-five runs and then we have had some disappointing runs with things that were out of our control. At Kansas, we were working on the car and got swept up in an accident. And at Talladega, I feel like we had a car that could easily win and we had an issue after the rain delay. It’s frustrating, but we all know that we are running well and working hard. We are close to getting that first win and when that happens, I think we will have a shot to win several of these races.”
DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE, BEING 18TH IN POINTS, YET?
“No. There are still a bunch of races left before the Chase. I really think we can start being a regular top-five and top-10 car and if we were able to win a couple of races, we would have a good shot. So I’m not worried about it. I’m just going to keep doing my job.”