Martin Wins As Favorites Fall In Las Vegas
Mark Martin, who inherited the lead when leader Brad Keselowski popped a tire and sideswiped the wall on he last lap, won the Sam’s Club 300 Nationwide Series Race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday.
The victory was the 49th in the series for Martin.
Justin Allgaier finished second, Keselowski third and Danica Patrick fourth.
Patrick, who was two laps down at one point in the race, notched the best NASCAR by a female since 1949.
Trevor Bayne, the winner of the Daytona 500 last month, finished fifth.
None of those five drivers had the fastest car in the race, however.
Much of the speed on Saturday belonged to Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin. But each of those drivers succumbed to circumstances.
Busch dominated the first half of the race, leading 84 of the first 130 laps. But with 70 to go, he went to the bottom of the track to pass Keselowski. Keselowski moved down and shoved Busch down in to the grass where he lost control and slammed the inside wall.
Perhaps dooming Busch was a decision on the pit stop before his wreck to take four tires while most others at the front of the pack. Busch, who led going in for the stop, lost track position and found himself in the middle of a pack of several slower cars.
“I just got a really big run off the top side and switched down to the bottom and thought I had a clear
track down there andthen the 22 (Keselowski) came down a little bit to block,” Busch said. “I didn’t want to run into him so I gave him a little moreroom and got into the grass. I knew you’re not supposed to get in the grass, I’m not that stupid. I thought I could hold onto it at least and then once we got sliding through the grass there, I tried to lock it down and get it back straight and got intothe inside fence. Another tough day in Vegas.”
Edwards, who started from the pole, had his shot at winning fell victim to a fuel mileage decision. He had a very healthy lead with 14 laps to go but had to stop for fuel.
“This Mustang belongs in victory lane,” Edwards said. “These guys did a really good job. I wondered if those guys were going to stretch it from that stop and they did. I did all I could and my guys did all they could. We made the right decisions on the set up and hindsight is easy to say we should have stopped but if we had gotten a caution at the end we would have won this thing by a mile. That is racing though.”
Hamlin and Stenhouse, closest to Edwards at the time, also had to pit about that time.
“We just really had the wrong strategy there,” Hamlin said. “We knew it was going to be close. I knew some guys were going to stretch it to make it. You just hope that it doesn’t come down to that and it did.”
Last Year’s winner, Kevin Harvick had a fast car too but he succumbed to front-end damage.
On the restart on lap 143, Harvick rammed into a slower car that had checked up. That sent Harvick to the garages.
The most important event of all in the race occurred with less than a lap to go. Keselowski said he had plenty of fuel and would easily have won had his tire not blown.
“I drove up through the field and leveled off about sixth knowing that everyone in front of us was going to have to pit,” Keselowski said. “I was trying to conserve my stuff and watch Mark behind and watch my gap; I felt like I did a good job of that. I felt like we had it (race win) but obviously didn’t.
“I didn’t push the car too hard that’s for sure. I must have run over something because (the tire) went down quick and I’m sure that I ran over something. Just one of them days where you do everything right and don’t win. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I guess that’s why they call it racing because otherwise you’d go off the practice sheet and know who’d win the race. Obviously that’s not the way that it worked out today.”
Keselowski’s follow-up season to his championship has gotten off to a miserable start. He crashed in the first two races of the year and then came Vegas.
“I just feel bad for my guys,” he said. “We’ve had three-straight weeks in this Nationwide Series with three pretty good cars. I thought that we had the car to beat at Daytona and got wrecked there. I felt like we had a decent car at Phoenix to run in the top five and blew a tire. I felt like we could have at least run in the top five and steal a win; it looked like we were going to and something happened. It’s got to come back around. We’re just on downside of the roller coaster; I’m ready for it to come back up.”
(This story will be updated shortly)One Comment