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BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The right side of Brad Keselowski's car almost looked like a photo negative as his crew loaded it on the Team Penske hauler after 400 hard-fought miles. The No. 2 Ford started Sunday as a pearly off-white but wound up blackened after a late-race scrape with the retaining wall.
Such encounters usually don't end well, especially at Michigan International Speedway, where speeds above 200 mph are commonplace. Against those steep odds, the Penske team patched up the black-and-blue Deuce to salvage an eighth-place finish in the Pure Michigan 400.
"Looked like from there it was going to be a disaster of a day," Keselowski said, "but everyone on the Miller Lite Ford Fusion did a heck of a job fixing it, getting us back out there, and somehow ended up eighth with a car that was disastrously torn up. That's a heck of an effort, something to be proud of and something to take away from here."
The takeaway might be that Keselowski's team has championship-caliber resilience to match its on-track performance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year. The 30-year-old driver had just taken the lead in a cycle of pit stops when a tire let go in the 168th of 200 laps, sending Keselowski's No. 2 entry up the track.
Without much time to produce a rally, the Penske bunch worked feverishly to mend the car and keep Keselowski from losing a lap. He restarted 17th as the final driver on the lead lap and surprisingly regained lost ground over the final 26 laps.
The finish came as a welcome turnaround for the team after last weekend's 35th-place effort at Watkins Glen and a 23rd-place day at Pocono the previous week.
"The guys did a great job. Hats off to all of them because the last few weeks have been tough," said Paul Wolfe, Keselowski's crew chief. "Just seems like we've had different things happening. We've had pretty fast cars, I feel like, but just things have happened, and when that happens, it's like 'here we go again.' I felt like we needed to work hard to stay on the lead lap and the guys did a great job of that and actually got it fixed well enough where we could actually move back forward a bit and get a decent finish out of it considering how late in the race that happened. That says a lot about all these guys.
"I've got confidence in the guys working on the car and the driver. We've got a few things not going our way right now, but we're confident that when we get to Chicago when the points matter, we'll be where we need to be."
Keselowski possesses three regular-season wins -- tied for most in the series -- as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs draw near. The performance and reliability have helped Keselowski build a case for his second championship in the last three years.
But his racing career's bucket list also includes checking the box for a home-track victory, something that was tantalizingly close for the Rochester Hills, Michigan native over the weekend.
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