Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski overcame a slow start to capture his first win of the year, and his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, kept his hopes alive in the battle for the $100,000 Moog Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Year” Award in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Wolfe’s call for four new tires during the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford’s final pit stop proved to be the difference maker and ultimately helped the crew chief earn his third Moog “Problem Solver of the Race” Award of 2013, moving him into a three-way tie for second place in the year-end Moog standings.
Sponsored by Moog Steering and Suspension manufacturer Federal-Mogul Corporation the weekly Problem Solver award is presented to the crew chief whose car posts the best second-half improvement in average lap time while finishing on the lead lap. At the end of the season, Federal-Mogul presents the $100,000 Problem Solver of the Year Award to the crew chief with the most weekly wins. The Penske Racing-owned No. 2 Ford Fusion improved by a race-best 0.082 seconds over the final 167 laps at Charlotte.
While Keselowski and Wolfe’s Moog-equipped Fusion finished the night in impressive fashion, it struggled (23rd) during Friday’s qualifying session and in the first 100 laps of Saturday night’s Chase event. The low point came following a Lap 87 stop when Keselowski exited pit road with a jack lodged beneath the car’s chassis. Following that mishap, however, the No. 2 quickly found its stride, with Keselowski methodically picking up track position over the next 150 laps. Still, the driver and crew chief weren’t certain they could run with race leaders Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne – whose Moog-equipped Chevrolets led 130 and 138 laps, respectively – until the four-tire call with 27 laps to go. The Miller Lite Ford restarted sixth then worked its way forward, finally capturing the lead on a beautiful inside move with eight laps remaining.
“Paul made a great call during that last stop – they had nothing to lose by opting for four tires in that situation,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “Once Brad got back out on the track, it was obvious he had a lot of more confidence and their Moog-equipped chassis was set up perfectly for a drag race to the finish.”
Wolfe’s third weekly Moog Problem Solver award moves him to within just one win of leaders Matt Borland (crew chief for Ryan Newman, No. 39 Chevrolet) and Gil Martin (Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet) with five races to go. Joining Wolfe in second place are Todd Gordon (Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford) and Kevin Manion (Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet), while two crew chiefs sit just two back.