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Wolfe Call Makes Keselowski A Winner

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 13 2013

Brad Keselowski used four fresh tires and a late pass to win at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo)

CONCORD, N.C. – Two tires or four?

It’s often the toughest question a crew chief faces in the closing stages of a race. However, for Penske Racing crew chief Paul Wolfe, that wasn’t the case in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

When the fourth and final caution period began with 27 laps remaining in the 334-lap event, there were less than a dozen cars on the lead lap. Track position wasn’t the issue for Wolfe’s driver, Brad Keselowski; it was being able to use the speed his Ford possessed to charge to the front. That meant four new tires.

“You know the guys that already have the track position; they’re not going to want to give it up, so you know they’re going to most likely do the two-tire,” Wolfe explained. “So for us to beat them or to have a better shot at beating them, you need to do something a little different. With not many cars on the lead lap, for me, I thought it was a pretty easy call to take four tires at that point.”

The four-tire change that occurred during a caution for debris on the backstretch left Keselowski restarting sixth. Kasey Kahne, who received only two tires during his 6.8-second pit stop, was in the lead. Jeff Gordon was second, Jimmie Johnson third, Matt

Brad Keselowski got his first victory of the season on Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Kenseth fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Once the green flag waved with 23 laps remaining, Johnson was surprisingly shuffled backwards while Kenseth challenged Kahne and Gordon for the lead.

“We fired off that last restart and the two cars in front of me had two tires,” Kenseth said. “I couldn’t believe that they figured out how to give me a chance to win again. I am kind of disappointed that I didn’t figure out how to win it with the position he put me in and the good restart I had coming out of turn two in second. I thought for sure I’d have a shot to go around Kasey, and just couldn’t get it done.”

Kahne initially thought crew chief Kenny Francis’ decision to change only two tires was a “great call” because it kept him on the front row for the restart. He quickly learned otherwise.

“I was able to clear Jeff (Gordon),” Kahne said. “I thought I did pretty good, but as soon as I got to turn one, my left side was a little bit … I could feel they weren’t working quite as well. They were just rough, kind of bouncing a little bit, so I knew I was in trouble at that point.”

Kahne said it was then that he concentrated on running good laps while Kenseth and Keselowski battled for second. When Keselowski finally dispensed with Kenseth, the defending series champion trailed Kahne by half a second.

“Brad caught me and I tried to switch it up and find momentum and find speed,” Kahne said. “He got by me in (turn) three and I got back by him on the frontstretch. Then he came up, again.”

This time it appeared Keselowski would attempt to pass Kahne high, but when the Hendrick Motorsports driver moved up, Keselowski shot underneath him, taking the lead for good with nine laps remaining.

“I love hard racing,” Keselowski said shortly after claiming his first victory this season and at the 1.5-mile track. “Some guys freak out (when you race them close like that), but Kasey is not one of them. I’m proud to race with me.”

Keselowski’s 10th career victory made him the first non-Chase contender to win a Chase race since 2011 when Kahne emerged the victor at Phoenix International Raceway. It also meant that every driver in the Penske Racing stable, including those in the IZOD IndyCar Series, has visited victory lane this year.

“I’d say this is a pretty good night for us,” team owner Roger Penske commented. “When I saw the jack under the car (as Keselowski left pit road during the second caution period) I thought here we go again, not a good night. But when it was time to go, we raced the best, and it was Brad behind the wheel. It wasn’t a fuel economy run. It was him digging deep and bringing us to victory lane.”

Prior to Keselowski’s charge in the closing laps, the 500-mile race had been a Hendrick Motorsports benefit with Kahne and Johnson combining to lead 268 laps. Kahne was the race’s top lap leader, setting the pace seven times for 138 laps, while Johnson led on three occasions for 130 laps. When the final caution flag waved, Johnson possessed a 4.046-second advantage over Kahne.

However, by the time the race had concluded Johnson found himself fourth and still trailing Kenseth in the standings. Kenseth, who finished third, gained one point on Johnson. He now leads by a mere four points heading to Talladega.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Bank of America 500

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Saturday, October 12, 2013

1. (23) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 334, $319441.

2. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 334, $227310.

3. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 334, $194226.

4. (4) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 334, $185221.

5. (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 334, $166068.

6. (2) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 334, $157346.

7. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 334, $171571.

8. (7) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 334, $129343.

9. (18) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 334, $107160.

10. (15) Carl Edwards, Ford, 334, $126310.

11. (14) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 334, $127493.

12. (8) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 334, $114949.

13. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #, Ford, 334, $131121.

14. (10) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 333, $110280.

15. (6) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 333, $96935.

16. (3) Greg Biffle, Ford, 333, $104660.

17. (29) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 333, $107874.

18. (12) Joey Logano, Ford, 332, $108018.

19. (25) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 332, $105955.

20. (35) Danica Patrick #, Chevrolet, 332, $80310.

21. (26) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 332, $86685.

22. (17) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 331, $110335.

23. (11) Aric Almirola, Ford, 331, $114796.

24. (13) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 331, $107501.

25. (27) Brian Vickers(i), Toyota, 330, $85735.

26. (36) David Reutimann, Toyota, 330, $95043.

27. (19) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 330, $92718.

28. (24) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 329, $98418.

29. (34) David Gilliland, Ford, 328, $87693.

30. (30) David Ragan, Ford, 328, $94347.

31. (28) Casey Mears, Ford, 328, $80585.

32. (39) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 327, $72360.

33. (32) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 327, $72235.

34. (31) Cole Whitt(i), Toyota, 327, $72110.

35. (41) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 326, $79960.

36. (40) Timmy Hill #, Ford, 324, $71780.

37. (21) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 247, $79650.

38. (43) Blake Koch(i), Ford, Vibration, 216, $66550.

39. (38) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, Electrical, 149, $62550.

40. (37) Michael McDowell, Ford, Vibration, 83, $58550.

41. (33) Josh Wise(i), Ford, Brakes, 81, $54550.

42. (22) Mark Martin, Chevrolet, Engine, 80, $97375.

43. (42) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Accident, 23, $47050.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 158.308 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 09 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.022 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 20 laps.

Lead Changes: 24 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J. Gordon 1-26; D. Gilliland 27; K. Kahne 28-29; D. Earnhardt Jr. 30-43; K. Kahne 44-73; J. Johnson 74; R. Newman 75; C. Edwards 76; Kyle Busch 77; K. Kahne 78-90; D. Earnhardt Jr. 91-95; K. Kahne 96-128; R. Newman 129; M. Kenseth 130; C. Bowyer 131; B. Keselowski 132-133; K. Kahne 134-173; Kyle Busch 174; K. Kahne 175-177; J. Johnson 178-227; Kyle Busch 228; J. Johnson 229-307; Kyle Busch 308; K. Kahne 309-325; B. Keselowski 326-334.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Kahne 7 times for 138 laps; J. Johnson 3 times for 130 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 26 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 2 times for 19 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 11 laps; Kyle Busch 4 times for 4 laps; R. Newman 2 times for 2 laps; D. Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap; C. Bowyer 1 time for 1 lap; M. Kenseth 1 time for 1 lap; C. Edwards 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 13 in Points: M. Kenseth – 2,225; J. Johnson – 2,221; K. Harvick – 2,196; J. Gordon – 2,189; Kyle Busch – 2,188; G. Biffle – 2,167; Kurt Busch – 2,166; C. Bowyer – 2,162; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 2,159; C. Edwards – 2,158; J. Logano – 2,150; R. Newman – 2,147; K. Kahne – 2,144.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 13 2013
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