June 28, 2014
NASCAR Wire Service
Sometimes the fastest car doesn’t always win. Tonight, at Kentucky Speedway, it did.
Battling back from varying pit stop strategies, Brad Keselowski climbed six positions over the final 47 laps to pick up his second win of the season in dominating fashion in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts. By winning, Keselowski guarantees himself a berth into the Chase and also becomes the first two-time winner at the 1.5-mile speedway in three years.
Pole sitter Keselowski led the opening 27 Laps until Denny Hamlin wrecked in Turn 4. The first yellow flag of the night would also serve as the scheduled competition caution.
Keselowski brought the field down pit road, where teams tried varying strategies. The top-10 cars elected for two tires, while the others took on four tires.
The Lap 34 restart kept Keselowski in control and by Lap 60 he had extended his lead to 3.5-second over Kevin Harvick. The gap would close on Lap 77 for Kyle Larson, who lost a right-front tire and slammed the Turn 2 wall.
Under the yellow, everyone took four tires, with outside pole sitter Joey Logano beating his teammate off pit lane ahead of Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne.
Logano set the field back into racing conditions, but Keselowski was determined to put his Ford Fusion back at the helm, moving past the No. 22 on Lap 88 and by Lap 104 had extended his lead to 2.7 seconds. By Lap 125, Busch had knocked a chunk out of his lead, but a lap later, the yellow flag waived for debris in Turns 3 and 4.
Pit road became a very busy place and for the second time of the night, Keselowski lost the lead on pit road to Logano with Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. leading the parade back onto the racetrack.
The race resumed on Lap 132, but 15 laps later, Keselowski took the lead back from Logano.
A three-car incident on Lap 154 for Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Jamie McMurray brought out the fourth yellow of the night and sent the lead lap cars to pit road, where Keselowski and others took two tires and fuel. Once again, Logano had the better stop and grabbed the lead from Keselowski.
While Logano led for the Lap 161 restart, Keselowski didn’t waste any time and reasserted his control on Lap 163 and led until a Lap 177 caution for a solo spin by David Stremme. Pit road opened with the leader deciding to stay out, as did much of the top 10.
86 Laps remained when the green flag flew, with Keselowski fumbling, which allowed Logano to take advantage, but not for long as the ‘Blue Deuce’ quickly pedaled back to the point.
The Rochester Hills, Michigan native led through Lap 215, when Almirola lost a tire and hit the Turn 1 wall. The sixth yellow flag of the night was a welcomed sight for the lead pack, as they were within a few laps of having to pit under green flag conditions.
Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, and Earnhardt Jr. remained on the track as they pitted before the caution waived and became the top-three leaders. Meanwhile, a two-tire stop allowed Paul Menard to beat Matt Kenseth off pit road and they restarted fourth and fifth respectively. Keselowski was sixth.
The Lap 220 restart saw Busch trying to fend off Ryan Newman, with the Team Penske cars of Keselowski and Logano stalking them from the rear. Keselowski made the move around Newman for second on Lap 233 and set his sights on leader Busch, who grew his lead to 1.7 seconds.
As the laps ticked away, Keselowski began to catch the No. 18 of Busch and when the No. 18 ran into trouble passing the lapped machine of Reed Sorenson, Keselowski was able to make up nearly 1.1 seconds over three laps to grab the lead from him on Lap 249.
Over the next 18 laps, Keselowski drove to a 1.015 second margin and claimed his second checkered flag of the season, his first since winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.
Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, July 5, 2014. 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson Is the defending winner of the event.