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Keselowski will return to Nationwide at Atlanta

- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Brad Keselowski will return to the Nationwide Series this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway after missing the past four races.

Keselowski has not missed a Sprint Cup Series race since breaking his ankle in a crash during a test session at Road Atlanta on Aug. 3. In the four Cup races since that accident, he's got two wins, a second- and a third-place finish and climbed into contention for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

But he sat out three of the four Nationwide races he was scheduled to drive while trying to give his ankle some rest. He said Tuesday night he knows his decision to return to the second-tier series will be criticized. Keselowski is the defending Nationwide champion.

"It was really important for me to return to the Nationwide Series this season," he said. "I know there are a lot of people who think it may be a bad idea, but I am a man of my word. I made a promise to everyone on my team that I would be behind the wheel."

Keselowski indicated Saturday night's win at Bristol Motor Speedway made it easier to return to his Nationwide car. The victory was his third of the season and moved him to 11th in the standings. At worst, he should claim one of the two available wild-card spots in the 12-driver Chase because of his win total.

Since the accident, Keselowski has climbed 10 places in the standings.

"We're in a pretty good spot as far as the Chase is concerned, so this is a good time to go back to the Nationwide Series," Keselowski said. "My injuries are feeling better every day and the extra seat time should benefit both teams."

Keselowski has two wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 20 Nationwide races this season. Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch drove his No. 22 Dodge to a victory at Watkins Glen as the replacement driver. Sam Hornish Jr., Parker Kligerman and Jacques Villeneuve have also driven the car during Keselowski's absence.

Villeneuve had been previously scheduled to drive the car at Montreal, so Keselowski technically did not miss that race because of the injury.

"These last four weeks have very interesting for me," crew chief Todd Gordon said. "On one hand, my driver was on the sidelines with an injury and my thoughts were with him, as much as they could be. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to work with four outstanding racecar drivers. I feel that's made me a better, more well-rounded crew chief."

Keselowski has two top-10 finishes at Atlanta in four career Nationwide starts. His best finish there in two Cup starts was 25th last September. In his first Cup visit there in 2010, intentional contact from Carl Edwards sent Keselowski's car sailing into the fence.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects number of missed Nationwide races for Keselowski throughout.)

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