Keselowski Saves Fuel, Captures The Win At Dover
Brad Keselowski took the lead when the two drivers in front of him – Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin – had to pit for fuel with 10 laps to go and went on to win Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway.
Jeff Gordon finished second and Mark Martin third.
Jimmie Johnson was fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.
With the victory, Keselowski took over the Chase points lead. It was Keselowski’s fifth victory of the season and his second in three Chase races.
“A lot of it’s on the team,” he said. “It sounds great to give the credit to the driver, but the engine and the strategy make it all work as well, so you have to keep it in the context of team. It’s how you come together as a team, and everybody can contribute [a little bit] and when you stack some pennies you have a dollar. I think everybody’s on the same page as far as the two teams are concerned.”
Busch had led 267 of the first 310 laps but surrendered the lead to Johnson during yellow flag pit stops with 90 laps to go.
Busch stayed close to the rear bumper of the leader and with 46 laps to go, Busch made the pass and regained the lead. Just before giving up P1, Johnson had been told to back off the gas in order to start saving fuel.
“I was pretty nervous when we decided to go for it on fuel,” Johnson said. “We had it, but I had to give it up because of saving fuel. That’s just how it is. You never know until the checkered flag falls how it’s going to end up. You don’t want guys you’re racing for the points to pass you and it’s real tough to control your foot and not stand on the gas, but it is what it is.”
Shortly after that, Busch’s pit box came on the radio and told him he was going to be well short of fuel if the race stayed green. Third at that point was pole-sitter Denny Hamlin. He too was told he could not make it to the finish without pitting for fuel.
Busch pitted from the lead with 10 to go, Hamlin with nine to go. That turned the lead over to Keselowski, who cruised to the win.
“It’s frustrating,” Dave Rogers, Busch’s crew chief, said. “The car was strong all day. Kyle did a phenomenal job, but our numbers just said we couldn’t make it. All race we’re scanning everybody and every time the 2 (Keselowski) or the 48 (Johnson) would say they had to pit – it was five to six laps later than us. I knew they had better fuel mileage than us and I knew if it came down to a fuel mileage race that we were going to be in trouble. We played our best cards and we came up short. There was no doubt that we had the fastest car today.”
Hamlin, who was coming off a win at New Hampshire a week ago, echoed the theme of frustration with the fuel thing.
“It’s like all the hard work that you do, it just doesn’t pay off,” Hamlin said. “Same thing at Richmond, we just didn’t have the fuel mileage. We choose to have the horsepower over the fuel mileage and some guys don’t tune that way. When you have a race-winning car you don’t want to give up any of the horsepower. It’s frustrating. They’re not going to beat us on the track – that’s just plain and simple. We’re just too fast right now and I feel like everything is going well.
“These strategy games and the way these cautions are falling, it’s ill-timed. These cautions fly when some people can and some people can’t make it. It’s messing everything up. We need to improve our fuel mileage, we know that and we’ll work on that as much as anything. For me, I’m not too discouraged because we ran our ass off today.”
Despite the two wins and the Chase lead, Keselowski isn’t getting overconfident in his title hopes.
“There are seven races to go,” he said. “It feels great to win and I’m so proud of my team, but I can’t state loudly enough how much longer this battle is. It’s tempting to get into a comfort zone and say such-and-such has control of this race, but there’s a reason it’s 10 rounds. We’re only three rounds in. Certainly were not the underdog at this point, but there’s so much racing to go and so many opportunities for things to go wrong or right for anyone out there that it’s way too early for anyone to point those fingers and say those things.”No Comment