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Keselowski Has A Gas At Kansas Speedway

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 5 2011

Brad Keselowski and his team owner, Roger Penske, celebrate their victory at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Nick Bromberg | Senior Writer

Kansas City, Kan. – As the laps ticked away in Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, Brad Keselowski was just cruising along and easing his way into the corners to save fuel to clinch a second place finish.

A second-place would be a nice boost for a Sprint Cup season that, until Sunday, included one top 10 finish and a host of disappointing ones.

A win would be even better, of course, but Tony Stewart pitted one lap later than Keselowski did, so he was surely going to make it on fuel, right?

Nope. Stewart’s team didn’t get the car full of fuel on that stop and he had to hit pit road. That handed the lead over to Keselowski, but he didn’t know that.

“I was just hoping to hang on to second,” Keselowski said. “Nobody really told me that we were leading. I don’t know when I took the lead. The scoreboard is right in the middle of the race track and I looked over and saw my name on the top with two to go. I started shaking. I’m glad they didn’t tell me. “

Keselowski was able to stretch that final fuel tank 57 laps – the longest anyone ran under green on a tank of gas all day – and even had enough for a victory burnout after

Brad Keselowski fouls the hot Kansas air. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

beating Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the line by just over 3.5 seconds.

“We’d been doing everything we could to save gas. It didn’t really affect me whether I knew I was leading or not. It was probably really smart of them not to tell me that because I probably would have drove it really, really hard,” Keselowski said.

Now, Keselowski sits in 21st, just seven points outside the top 20. But most importantly, he’s seven point out of the top 20 with a win. Jeff Gordon and Regan Smith are the only other drivers outside of the top 10 with wins. Gordon’s 13th and Smith is 29th.

Suddenly Keselowski is a contender for a wild card berth into the Chase.

“I’m a big fan for the rule NASCAR implemented putting winners in the last two spots,” Keselowski said. “I think that serves the sport very well. And hopefully we’ll be able to capitalize on it. But there’s no guarantees of that. I feel pretty confident that it’s going to take really two wins to guarantee your way into it.

So obviously we’ve got to do this again, and that ain’t easy. So I like the system. And I feel good about our chances.”

His teammate Kurt Busch started from the pole and had the fastest car for most of the day. But Busch, who led 152 of the race’s 267 laps, had to pit twice in the final stretch of green-flag racing while Keselowski had to pit once.

“Kurt had him covered on speed, we had him covered on strategy,” Keselowski said.

That strategy was thanks to Keselowski’s crew chief Paul Wolfe.

“We were only about three-quarters of a lap short. So we didn’t need to save much,” Wolfe said. But the way it played out, there was nobody really pressuring us. So we went into really conservative mode.

We knew it wasn’t, it really wasn’t close. I didn’t feel it was a very big gamble. We had ourselves in a pretty good position.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 5 2011
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