June 15, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Notebook

Michigan driver Brad Keselowski comes up short on his home track

Brooklyn — Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski wanted to win at his home track at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

It didn’t happen. Keselowski had to settle for third-place in the Quicken Loans 400 while driving his No. 2 Ford for Roger Penske. He finished second the past two races, to Jimmie Johnson at Dover two weeks ago and to Dale Earnhardt Jr. last week at Pocono.

Sure, Keselowski has won at MIS, but the two victories came in the Nationwide series and he wanted that first win on the Cup side.

“We want the wins, especially here at Michigan,” Keselowski said. “That would mean a lot. We just need a little bit more speed to be able to get there. We just didn’t have the speed really all weekend to be a front runner in the sense of contending to win based on speed. But, the guys did a great job with execution. I thought we executed really well. We had a lot of good restarts, pretty decent on pit road today.

“I told somebody before, Joey Logano told us when we were talking before the race started, we needed a good blue-collar (day) and that’s what today was for us. We kind of trudged through it and came away with another top-three effort which is good, but not great.”

Keselowski left MIS fifth in the points standings, earning his seventh top-five finish to match Earnhardt for a series-high, including a win at Las Vegas that locked him into The Chase’s 16-car field.

Keselowski was winless last season, failing to make The Chase for the chance to battle for the series title over the final 10 races.

Johnson won at MIS for the first time in his career. It was his series-high third win of the season and fifth straight victory for Hendrick Motorsports drivers.

Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, feels drivers competing with Hendrick motors will remain dominant.

“We all have got a little bit of work to do because it’s pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else,” Keselowski said. “Usually that’s not something you catch up with in one season. As far ahead as they are right now, they’re probably a full season ahead of everyone.

“We’ve got work to do to get there. Thankfully, we’ve got, I can’t remember 12, 13 weeks until the Chase starts, and I know we’ve got some stuff coming up for that. But, I think we’ve got at Penske, I think we’re right there, kind of just maybe a half a nose behind the Hendrick cars or Hendrick-powered cars.”

Kevin Harvick, who drives for Stewart-Haas, has won two races with Hendrick motors and sits fourth in points. Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt are 1-2-3 in points.

Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano, who has two victories this season, finished ninth and is seventh in the points standings.

Roush-Fenway team struggles

Roush-Fenway drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. struggled, failing to give their team owner, Livonia businessman Jack Roush, a top-10 finish at MIS for the first time since 2000.

Biffle won four times at MIS, including last June’s race to give Roush a record 13 Sprint Cup wins at the track.

Biffle finished 20th, Edwards 23rd and Stenhouse 27th.

Edwards is the lone Roush driver to win a race and is sixth in points. Biffle is 15th and Stenhouse 27th.

Stewart's father enjoys day

Nelson Stewart stood just outside his son’s transporter, enjoying Father’s Day on a beautiful morning.

There was no other place Stewart, 76, would rather be than watching his son, Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart, compete in the Quicken Loans 400.

Nelson had a great sense of humor too. When asked what his job was with the Stewart team before the race, he replied: “Nothing, my job is to stand around and look pretty.”

Nelson then introduced himself as Tony’s father, saying he got his son involved in the sport at age 7.

“I raced myself and still do, that’s why I don’t go to as many races,” Nelson said. “Last year I got to race 24 (Legends division) and that’s why I was able to only watch him race at the track in Cup 12 to 15 times. I wouldn’t miss this one today.”

Nelson said he isn’t surprised by his 43-year-old son’s success. Tony has won 48 career races and three Sprint Cup series championships.

“He’s got a natural talent and always from Day 1, anything he sets his mind to he can do,” Nelson said. “He always had good people around him so how could you go wrong?”

Will Tony do the double-duty again, compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte on the same day like he did in 2001 when he completed all 1,100 miles, finishing sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte?

“I wish I could say he’s going to, but I doubt it ever happens and that’s the one race, the Indy 500, out of all of them that I want to see him win.”

Stewart finished 11th and is still winless this season, sitting 16th in points.

Masling aids Keselowski's team

Hunter Masling was busy at work preparing the tires less than an hour before the race.

Masling was relaxing on Sunday evening, May 25, when he received a text message from Keselowski following the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte.

“I get a text saying, ‘Is this Hunter?’ ” recalled Masling. “I thought, ‘No way is Brad texting me.’ Well, he did and he talked with me about it (opportunity to join his crew) and it went smooth.”

Yes, the conversation did and the next thing you know, Masling was changing tires on Keselowski’s team. In three races, Keselowski has finished second twice and third on Sunday.

“I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but it’s been fun,” said Masling, a native of Louisiana. “I work on his (Keselowski’s) truck teams in 2012 and 2013 and in Nationwide this year. Last year, our truck coach farmed me out to the (No.) 93 Cup team (with driver Travis Kvapil) to gain experience and that helped prepare me. But, this is a different level. You just kind of showed up and did the deal (with the 93 team).”

Patrick finishes 17th

Danica Patrick was one of 20 drivers finishing on the lead lap, placing 17th.

Patrick has one top-10 finish this season and is 28th in points.

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Brad Keselowski, in the No. 2 car, leads a tight pack on Sunday at MIS. / Carlos Osorio / Associated Press