LONG POND, Pa. -- Brad Keselowski pulled his car into the garage, rolled it up to the lift gate of his team's hauler and climbed out.
He walked around the red No. 2 Ford, taking stock of its appearance. Keselowski, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, knew what was underneath the sheetmetal. How the outside fared after 400 miles around Pocono Raceway was another matter.
Seemingly satisfied, he made a second lap around the vehicle, patting various teammates on the back and shoulder, offering thanks for their efforts.
"I'm just ready to go home," the Penske Racing driver said moments later.
It was a long weekend for Keselowski, but not exactly a disappointing one. On Saturday, he had flown to Iowa to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, which he won.
On Sunday, he battled back from a loss of track position to finish sixth in the GoBowling.com 400.
Keselowski is winless this year after 21 Cup races, but only seven points outside the top 10 in the standings. After a run of seven top-10 finishes in the first eight races this year, the team is trying to rediscover the magic -- six of its last eight races have resulted in finishes of 12th or worse. Mostly worse, until Sunday.
Fourth two weeks ago and now sixth at Pocono isn't a sign of a turnaround, just a turn. But it's a start. Teammate Joey Logano finished seventh Sunday for his second consecutive top-10 after back-to-back 40th-place finishes.
At Pocono, Keselowski worked his way from 11th to first, and led five times for 14 laps. Several of those came during a run of varying pit cycles among the leaders, but such was the case for many of those out front, depending on when they elected to hit pit road.
The key for Keselowski, however, came shortly after the day's fifth caution for a single-car accident involving David Stremme. Second to eventual race winner Kasey Kahne at the time, Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to stop for four tires and fuel. Others stayed out, or took only two tires.
When the race resumed with 61 laps remaining, Keselowski's red machine was 15th, and a yellow four laps later "killed our strategy," he said.
"We caught that one yellow at the worst possible time with probably 50 or 60 laps to go," Keselowski said, "and we pitted for four tires; we were still going to be OK.
"But then we caught another yellow ? it put us behind and we couldn't recover. ? Damn. We were just a little bit short."
Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler wasn't second-guessing any decisions but admitted that "everybody else was a little more aggressive on (that stop) than we were and that's the one that put both of our teams behind.
"You can look at all kinds of things throughout the day, but that stop certainly set our track position ? for the rest of the race," he said. "There wasn't enough strategy left to play to get that back."
On the whole he said, it was a "blue-collar day" for the Penske teams.
"Decent finishes and nothing to be too concerned about speed-wise with most of the field."
There are, he noted, a handful of cars "that are pretty hard to keep up with."
And it took a problem with the right-front tire to slow Jimmie Johnson, who led 43 laps before the failure.
"They're doing a pretty good job," Geisler acknowledged. "And those are the ones we've got to beat."
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