Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion Brad Keselowski delivered a much-needed top-five finish and his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, won Federal-Mogul’s Moog Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Race” Award in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. It was Wolfe’s second Moog Problem Solver award of the season, moving him into a three-way tie for second place in the battle for the Moog brand’s year-end $100,000 Problem Solver honors.
The weekly Moog Problem Solver award is presented following each Sprint Cup contest to the crew chief whose car posts the best second-half improvement while finishing on the lead lap. Keselowski and Wolfe’s Moog-equipped No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion improved by a race-best 0.266 seconds per lap in finishing second at the Glen. The runner-up finish bumped the Penske Racing team up four spots, to eighth, in points with just five races remaining before NASCAR locks in its field for the season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Keselowski started eighth and was battling for position with Jamie McMurray’s Moog-equipped No. 1 Chevrolet in the early going when he spun out in Turn 1. That early miscue, which dropped the 2 car to 22nd, dictated the team’s strategy for the rest of the race, with Wolfe continually enhancing the car’s steering and suspension to match changing conditions and Keselowski methodically regaining track position. It appeared the team might come all the way back to secure its first win of the year as Keselowski challenged for the lead on the final laps, but the 2 car couldn’t pull off one last pass before the checkered flag. It was Keselowski’s third straight runner-up finish in Sprint Cup racing on the 2.45-mile road course.
“Brad and Paul look like they’re going to finish strong, which is what champions do,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “They need a win in the next five races to protect their position in the top 10, and if today’s race had run one extra lap they might have gotten one. Paul was an outstanding leader in the pits, keeping the team and Brad focused on recovering track position after the early spin, which could have been devastating to their chances for the Chase.”
As Keselowski clings to a spot in the Chase field, Wolfe has made it clear he’s a contender for the $100,000 season-ending Moog Problem Solver award. With 14 races remaining, Wolfe, Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief Steve Letarte (No. 88 Chevrolet) and Jamie McMurray crew chief Kevin Manion (No. 1 Chevrolet) are tied for second place with two wins each. Leading the Moog Problem Solver field with three weekly wins are crew chiefs Todd Gordon (Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford) and Matt Borland (Ryan Newman, No. 39 Chevrolet). A total of 15 different crew chiefs have won the weekly Moog honors in the first 22 races.