Finish at Martinsville Brings MOOG Award to Crew Chief Paul Wolfe
Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe turned what could have been a disastrous weekend into a two-car battle for the Sprint Cup Championship with a clutch top-10 finish in Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup contest at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Following the race, Wolfe became the 15th different crew chief to take home Federal-Mogul’s MOOG Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Race” Award.
Wolfe’s award came after the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, which had qualified 32nd on a brand-new chassis, posted a race-best 0.159-second improvement in average lap time over the final 250 laps of Martinsville’s half-mile oval. While the team’s sixth-place finish didn’t allow Keselowski to retain the Sprint Cup points lead, it was enough to keep him just two points behind leader Jimmie Johnson with three races remaining. Both Keselowski’s Dodge and Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet are steered with precision-engineered MOOG components.
“Brad and Paul faced awfully long odds out there today, but Paul was able to make huge progress on their chassis before the start and the No. 2 got faster with every adjustment during the race,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “Picking up 26 positions isn’t easy at Martinsville, but they got it done and kept themselves right there in the title chase.”
Keselowski had improved to sixth place by lap 474 when a caution sent the top five cars into the pits for fresh tires. The No. 2 team, gambling that its great-handling chassis could hold off the field over the final 26 laps, stayed out on the track and assumed the lead. Johnson’s fresh tires allowed him to regain the advantage with 15 laps to go and Keselowski and Wolfe settled for their 21st top-10 of the season.
“That was a gutsy call at the end. Great teams never stop trying to find a way to win,” Nelson said. “It’s going to be an exciting battle over the next three weeks.”
And there’s another exciting battle to follow: the race for the $100,000 MOOG “Problem Solver of the Year” Award, which goes to the pit professional with the most weekly MOOG award wins. Steve Addington, crew chief for Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Chevrolet, holds a one-win advantage over Chad Johnston (No. 56 Toyota/Martin Truex Jr.) and Steve Letarte (No. 88 Chevrolet/Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Jimmy Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus is two back with three weekly MOOG awards.