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Hobbled Keselowski Wins Cup Race At Pocono

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 7 2011

Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski won at Pocono on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Brad Keselowski, whose weekend was put in doubt when he severely injured his ankle during a test session early in the week, held off Kyle Busch to win the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday afternoon.

The victory was the second of the season for Keselowski and the third of his career.

It also moved him closer to securing his first berth in the season-ending Chase. The victory moved him from 21st to 18th in points and puts him in great shape to win a Wild Card playoff berth at the very least.

How did he manage to post a victory at one of the toughest tracks on the schedule and one which now requires gear shifting?

“Manned up,” he said.

Busch, who had led 27 laps, finished second.

Kurt Bush was third and defending five-time champion Jimmie Johnson was fourth.

Ryan Newman was fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Paul Menard.

The Keselowski injury – a broken ankle – was suffered during a crash at Road Atlanta’s road course. The ankle swelled up to the size of a grapefruit and the team told Sam Hornish Jr. to stand by in case Keselowski could not start – or not finish – at the 2.5-mile triangle at Pocono.

Keselowski, who did sit out Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway, said there was no way anybody was going to take his place in the No. 2 Cup Penske Racing car.

He led 19 laps in getting the victory at Pocono.

Denny Hamlin led a race-best 65 laps but had his hopes for a victory were doused when he had lugnut problems on the final pit stop of the day.

But it looked like Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate who would get the victory as the race – which was stopped for an hour and three-quarters by rain – wore toward a conclusion.

JGR’s Kyle Busch had passed his brother Kurt Busch for the lead with 38 laps to go and was comfortably leading the race with a 2.2-second lead after the final green-flag pit stops of the day when a caution flag was waved for a wreck involving Kasey Kahne and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Keselowski jumped to the lead on the restart, which came with 16 laps to go. Busch tracked him from about five car lengths back but never could make the pass for the lead.

“You’re trying to fight yourself,” Keselowski said. “We had a fast Miller Lite Dodge Charger today and I was really good coming off of Turn 3.  Paul worked on this car and made it better all day.  I knew that if we got out front on that last restart, we’d be tough to catch.  I had a mirror full of the 18 car; our Dodge was just a little bit better today.”

Yep, Busch said. A little bit better

“Not what we wanted for sure,” Busch said.  ”Unfortunately, there on that restart I don’t know that I changed anything.  I thought the inside was good for me.  I’d been running down lower in turn one all day and just Jimmie (Johnson) got to my inside there and kind of slowed me down, down the straightaway.  It’s racing.  That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re running as long as we are and as hard as we are.  Can’t say enough about all of these guys.  The M&M’s Camry was flawless.  Just didn’t have enough there at the end.  I think track position and clean air was pretty crucial.  We had a good day.  We come out of here with a top-two.  Wish we could’ve won.  Maybe we can get another one in the next couple of weeks.”

After the race, Johnson and Kurt Busch had heated words in the pits. Johnson accused Busch of roughing him up.

“I have no problem racing hard,” Johnson said. “And we raced really hard all day long. I just don’t understand why, when I finally get position on him, he’s got to run all over the side of me down the straightaway. It was a great race. The thing is here, track position is everything. And every driver is at 10/10ths, trying to get what they can, when they can, because you can’t pass. And it took me that entire fuel run to set-up that pass on him and I finally got it done and then that problem happens. So that’s where my frustration comes in.”

Busch said he was “just racing” and added sarcastically that he did not know he was supposed to pull over to let the five-time champ past.

I was racing Jimmie (Johnson) hard there at the end,” Busch said. ” I was racing, flat out.  You want to race, let’s race.  I didn’t know we were supposed to pull over when it came down to five to go.  I raced him hard.  I raced him smart.  I raced him clean and he wants to come over here and bitch about it.  Hey, he came off the turn and did at jab to my left; I did a jab back to the right.   Why can’t we race each other like this and put on show for the fans and not have a problem with it?  I don’t know.”

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 7 2011
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