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NASCAR NOTES: Commute may help Keselowski's crew

LONG POND, Pa. — Though he’s been criticized in some quarters for the decision to race both at Pocono Raceway and Iowa Speedway this weekend, Brad Keselowski believes it’s important to honor a commitment he made more than three months ago.

And though Keselowski currently is in danger of missing the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after winning the series championship in 2012, he’s not concerned that commuting between the two race tracks will have a negative effect on his Cup program.

“There is a little (wear and tear), but I get paid to be tough enough to do that,” Keselowski said Friday after posting the 25th fastest qualifying lap during time trials at Pocono. “That’s my job.”

To those who would question the wisdom of running both the Cup race and the Nationwide Series event at Iowa, Keselowski had a definitive answer.

“I say I made a promise I would go there, and I am going to make good on my promise,” he said. “That’s just as important as anything else I do.”

In fact, the Iowa race also affords an opportunity for some of Keselowski’s pit crew members to work out issues that have plagued the team this season. Rear tire changer Colin Fambrough and rear carrier Larry Robinett joined Keselowski’s Iowa pit crew for Saturday’s race.

Fambrough is back in action after shakeups to the crew failed to produce improved results. The Penske Racing teams went as far as moving several crew members from Joey Logano’s Ford to Keselowski’s during the July 14 Cup race at New Hampshire, after Logano spun and smacked the wall early in the event.

For TOday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono, however, Keselowski will have the same crew that won the Cup championship last year, minus front tire carrier Scott Reiniger, who retired. Jeremy Ogles is the team’s new front carrier.

“Basically, we’re back to the point with our crew — basically all the guys minus a rear carrier — where we started the season and feel like we were our best,” crew chief Paul Wolfe said Saturday at Pocono. “We moved guys around and brought in some different guys trying to make something happen and trying to find something, and we just haven’t had any success at that.

“So now we are going back to what our best lineup was early in the year. Is that exactly where we want it? No, but for the next six weeks that’s what we need to do. Long-term, we might make more changes.”

Constructive compromise

If anything fosters cooperation between race teams in a single organization, it’s the testing policy NASCAR instituted this season.

With four tests available at tracks that host NASCAR events, drivers and crew chiefs must agree on which four tracks are optimum for testing, and that involves no small degree of give and take.

With two drivers solidly in the Chase field — Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and two on the bubble — Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon — Hendrick Motorsports has opted to use one of its tests at a track the Sprint Cup will visit before the Chase (Richmond) and three that are Chase tracks (New Hampshire, Texas and Homestead).

According to Gordon, the choice of tracks was a collaborative decision.

“We discuss it in our Tuesday meetings, and I think all the crew chiefs get together in Monday meetings, and they come up with the race tracks they would like to go to,” Gordon said. “They talk to their drivers and get that kind of information, and then on Tuesday, we come up with the best scenario that works for all of us.

“For me, I think we have a good game plan that works for all of us. Again, I said earlier that it’s a compromise with the organization. When you have four teams, not everybody is going to be perfectly suited. But in this case, I think it suits our needs to get ourselves in the Chase, and if we get in the Chase, then it suits our teammates to be very competitive in the Chase.”

Fans can win, too

Picture yourself in a brand new 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited.

Add two tickets to NASCAR Contenders Live fan event Sept. 12 in the Grand Ballroom at Chicago’s Navy Pier, and throw in two VIP passes to the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway with an extra $500 to spend.

That’s the grand prize one lucky fan will win in the NASCAR Contenders Live Sweepstakes, available for entry at www.NASCAR.com/contenderslive.

“In collaboration with Toyota, a long standing Official NASCAR Partner, NASCAR Contenders Live was a rousing success with our fans last year,” said Norris Scott, NASCAR vice president of partnership marketing. “The event is unique because it showcases the competitive nature of the top stars in our sport and their passion to be a champion.”

Contenders Live, which also features appearances by NASCAR president Mike Helton and Miss Sprint Cup, is scheduled for 1:30-3 p.m. CT. The event sold out last year. Fans will have the opportunity to engage Helton in an open question-and-answer session. Other prizes that will be awarded through the sweepstakes include: a 2013 NASCAR Contenders Live full-sized helmet signed by all 12 Chase drivers; five Sprint Samsung Galaxy tablets; four SiriusXM satellite radios; and four $50 SiriusXM gift cards.