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‘Gutsy’ Performance Nets Keselowski A Victory

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 1 2012

Brad Keselowski got to carry the flag at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

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Brad Keselowski expertly managed fuel mileage during the closing 56 laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Quaker State 400 Saturday night en route to his second career victory at Kentucky Speedway.

Keselowski earned his third Cup win of 2012 and became the second driver to win both NSCS and NASCAR Nationwide Series titles at the 1.5-mile track in Sparta, Ken., after taking a Feed The Children 300 title on July 8, 2011.

“We were gutsy today, had a fast car and drove to the lead on the first run,” said Keselowski, driver of the No.2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger fielded by Penske Racing. “We waited for someone to make a mistake or give us a chance. Hard work equals results and today this team got the results. It feels pretty dang good.”

Keselowski drove into the pits under green flag conditions on Lap 208. His chances of stretching fuel mileage to the end of the 267-lapper significantly improved when a caution flag flew on Lap 210 after Ryan Newman’s No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala blew its engine and slammed the Turn 2 wall.

Paul Wolfe, Keselowski’s crew chief, made the call to keep the No. 2 on-track while other contenders pitted to top their fuel tanks. The strategy paid off when Keselowski went to the lead for the third and final time off a Lap 220 restart. Meanwhile, late charges from Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Quaker State Chevy, Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew

Brad Keselowski in Victory Lane at Kentucky. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Chevy and five-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevy all came up short.

Keselowski completed his three-race Kentucky Speedway weekend owning Saturday night’s victory, a seventh-place finish in Friday night’s NNS Feed The Children 300 and a second-place showing in Thursday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 won by James Buescher of Turner Motorsports.

“What a weekend,” said Keselowski, a 28-year-old resident of Rochester Hills, Mich. “We hit the wall on Lap 1 of (NSCS) practice and brought out a backup car. This is my Martinsville car from the Chase (for the Sprint Cup) last year, so it isn’t the newest car we have but it sure does run.

“We fought through adversity all weekend long in 100-degree temperatures, got this car out and got it ready to practice on the racetrack. That hard work is what got us into Victory Lane tonight. I wanted to win all three this weekend, but if I had to pick one, this is the one.”

Kahne, of Hendrick Motorsports, finished second followed by Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing. Hendrick teammates Earnhardt Jr. and four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon staged an intramural battle to finish fourth and fifth, respectively.

“I guess. I was pretty loose,” said Junior, who collected his seventh top-five and 13th top-10 result of the season. “I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun those last 30 laps. But it was a good night. We were fast and good all weekend. We would have loved to have had a little better shot at it at the end. We had a good race car with the run before last; but for some reason it got really loose at the end. I’m just proud of the team. I just hope we can keep it up.”

Junior, who posted his first win in four years at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, will enter Saturday’s event at Daytona International Speedway second in the championship standings, 11 points behind Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing.

Gordon, meanwhile, said he was fortunate to keep within striking distance of the leaders during the closing stages. “The car got really loose getting in the corner and it was pretty tough to hang onto at that point,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy. “The track cooled down and it seemed like everybody got a little bit loose, especially getting into the corner. But we fought our way through. It was a pretty flawless night and I was pretty excited that we came home with a fifth-place finish, battling up-front like we did.

“We’ve just got to keep going to the racetrack and putting the effort out that we’ve been putting out. This team has been awesome. The cars have definitely shown that, and lately we’ve been getting the results. So you can definitely put some momentum on that and we’ve got some great tracks that are coming. To get a top-five here at Kentucky, which is definitely one of my worst racetracks, tells you just how strong our cars are and our team is and what we’re capable of doing.

“Daytona is going to be its own beast. But from that point on I think we’ve got the opportunity to not only put top-five’s together, but also get some wins.”

Keselowski’s third victory of the season could be a decisive advantage as drivers scramble to determine Chase for the Sprint Cup eligibility through the next nine events. Keselowski will enter Saturday’s Cup race on the 2.5-mile DIS trioval with a combined five top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He sits 10th in the championship standings and 96 points behind leader Kenseth, who scored his 12th top-10 finish with a seventh-place effort in the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion.

“Now we can look forward; we don’t have to look back at all,” Keselowski said.

Kahne encountered trouble early when he was forced to make a repeat pit stop to tighten loose lug nuts. He was 34th on Lap 60, advanced to 22nd by Lap 135, 11th by Lap 195 and moved into the top 10 for the first time at eighth on Lap 225. Kahne advanced to fifth by Lap 255 before closing out the race with his fourth top-five and eighth top-10 finish.

“We had to pass a ton of cars and came up a little short,” Kahne said. “The team was awesome. (Crew Chief) Kenny Francis called a great race and prepared an awesome car. My pit crew was really, really good. We just had a couple of mistakes at two different stops. We couldn’t get enough track position, so we had to fight for a long time. I wish we could’ve caught Keselowski because we need the wins, but we came pretty close.”

RACE RESULTS

1. (8) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 267, $176,470.

2. (19) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 267, $136,860.

3. (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267, $164,776.

4. (7) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 267, $109,770.

5. (9) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 267, $141,646.

6. (1) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267, $135,271.

7. (20) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 267, $130,871.

8. (10) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267, $111,349.

9. (16) AJ Allmendinger, Dodge, 267, $124,160.

10. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267, $132,368.

11. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 267, $127,321.

12. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 267, $89,960.

13. (12) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 267, $108,818.

14. (31) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 267, $110,476.

15. (17) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 267, $112,043.

16. (6) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 267, $106,524.

17. (34) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 267, $105,068.

18. (21) Casey Mears, Ford, 267, $94,743.

19. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267, $100,793.

20. (25) Carl Edwards, Ford, 266, $121,951.

21. (11) Greg Biffle, Ford, 266, $85,885.

22. (18) Joey Logano, Toyota, 266, $85,635.

23. (38) David Reutimann, Chevrolet, 266, $77,410.

24. (29) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 266, $116,035.

25. (23) Landon Cassill, Toyota, 266, $103,880.

26. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 266, $113,721.

27. (28) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 265, $96,193.

28. (40) David Gilliland, Ford, 265, $85,957.

29. (33) David Ragan, Ford, 263, $75,810.

30. (39) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 262, $73,735.

31. (41) Ken Schrader, Ford, 262, $82,170.

32. (22) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 231, $126,085.

33. (26) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, Accident, 209, $81,010.

34. (5) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 208, $117,118.

35. (42) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, Engine, 144, $72,910.

36. (32) David Stremme, Toyota, Vibration, 71, $72,860.

37. (30) Josh Wise, Ford, Vibration, 60, $74,305.

38. (35) Michael McDowell, Ford, Brakes, 58, $72,703.

39. (24) Scott Speed, Ford, Brakes, 55, $69,950.

40. (27) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, Overheating, 52, $69,850.

41. (43) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, Vibration, 47, $77,800.

42. (37) Mike Bliss, Toyota, Overheating, 18, $69,745.

43. (36) Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, Electrical, 12, $69,317.

RACE STATISTICS

Average Speed of Race Winner: 145.607 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 45 Mins, 2 Secs.

Margin of Victory: 4.399 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 24 laps.

Lead Changes: 17 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J. Johnson 0; Kyle Busch 1-33; B. Keselowski 34-43; Kyle Busch 44; T. Kvapil 45; Kyle Busch 46-96; J. Johnson 97-98; Kyle Busch 99-129; D. Hamlin 130-149; J. Johnson 150; C. Mears 151; D. Hamlin 152-187; J. Johnson 188-203; D. Hamlin 204-205; B. Keselowski 206-207; Kyle Busch 208-209; J. Johnson 210-211; B. Keselowski 212-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 5 times for 118 laps; B. Keselowski 3 times for 68 laps; D. Hamlin 3 times for 58 laps; J. Johnson 4 times for 21 laps; T. Kvapil 1 time for 1 lap; C. Mears 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 12 in Points: M. Kenseth – 633; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 622; J. Johnson – 610; G. Biffle – 608; D. Hamlin – 565; K. Harvick – 565; C. Bowyer – 557; M. Truex Jr. – 556; T. Stewart – 545; B. Keselowski – 537; C. Edwards – 503; Kyle Busch – 495.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 1 2012
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