KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Say this about Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite team: the tougher the trial, the greater their determination
In a week of extreme emotional swings that would reasonably test anyone's resolve, Keselowski overcame an assortment of setbacks in Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway to score a hard-earned sixth-place finish -- good enough to keep him on Jimmie Johnson's standings-leading heels despite being handed a hefty 25-point penalty from NASCAR earlier this week.
The reigning Sprint Cup champ Keselowski went down a lap early in Sunday's race after having to pit for repairs caused by a hit from behind as he avoided a slower car. He won the lap back, then made his way back up through the field even as damaged pieces of his Ford Fusion flew onto the track two different times.
He turned his fastest speeds of the day with 10 laps remaining, but not much of his car, picking off competitors with each cycle around the super fast 1.5-mile Kansas track, advancing four positions in the final nine laps.
"We have 'Boston Strong' on the back of the car today and that's good inspiration for this weekend,'' said Keselowski, who immediately surveyed the damage to his car after climbing out of the cockpit.
"Just a gritty effort by the 2 team today. Usually you're not happy unless you win, but with all the trouble we had today to come around here in sixth, kind of feels like a win.
"We got the car pretty good at the end, but it's been really strong almost every week. It's just a matter of fighting through adversity that every race is going to throw at you, and I think my team did a good job of that this weekend and all year.''
The adversity started long before his Penske Racing team showed up at the race track Friday. The teams of both Keselowski and fellow Penske driver Joey Logano teams were seriously disciplined by NASCAR on Wednesday. Series officials ruled that the rear-end housings the teams tried to use at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend were illegal. Parts were confiscated and both cars had to change their rear ends in the frantic minutes before the Texas night race.
NASCAR fined both their crew chiefs $100,000, suspended them as well as their team engineers, car chiefs and the Penske team manager Travis Geisler for six races.
Keselowski and Logano were docked 25 points each. The point penalty dropped Keselowski from second in the standings -- nine points behind leader Johnson -- to fourth, 34 points behind entering Sunday's race.
The sixth-place finish moved Keselowski up one place in the standings to third, and he now trails Johnson by 38.
Penske Racing has said it will appeal the penalties and fines. NASCAR said following Sunday's race that no date has been set for the appeal, though it could likely happen this week.
"Obviously we're disappointed with the penalties that were handed down, but we'll go through the process to appeal those,'' said crew chief Paul Wolfe. "We dealt with that earlier in the week, put that aside and came here and did our job. It was really a solid run and we kept ourselves up there in the points.
"We had to fix damage, come back from being a lap down, coming back from the quarter panel flying off, just everything went wrong. But one thing about the 2 team is nobody gives up, everyone kept a positive attitude and kept fighting and we weren't very far from getting a top-five out of it.''
As far as Wolfe is concerned, that attitude begins with his driver, whose week ranged from a visit to the White House on Tuesday, when President Obama recognized his 2012 Cup championship, to finding out Wednesday his title defense was dealt a serious blow with the NASCAR penalties.
"Brad thinks through everything and he's a great leader of this team,'' Wolfe said. "It's partly his attitude that keeps everybody motivated.
"We like when people push us because we push back even harder.''
For his part, Keselowski remained steely and steadfast after Sunday's race -- appearing emboldened by the effort. He was outspoken earlier in the week that the team had done nothing wrong and vindication was forthcoming.
"It's been a long week, but you know, we're not giving up,'' Keselowski said. "If I could re-do it over and over again, I'd make it better every time.
"I'm ready for next week, but this week is what it is. I don't have any regrets.''
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