Sunday, March 18, 2012

Keselowski Goes Back-to-Back in Thunder Valley

Brad Keselowski was the break-out star of 2011.  He ended the season on a roll, and many were wondering if he could keep it up in 2012.  Well, Brad Keselowski showed everyone that he is here to stay, with his second-straight victory at the famous Bristol Motor Speedway.

Brad Keselowski celebrates in Bristol's victory lane (Courtesy Getty Images)
Greg Biffle started on the pole, and it didn't take long for the first caution to come out.  On lap 24, Kasey Kahne slid his car off the nose of Regan Smith, which started a pile-up heading into turn 1.  Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose, and Kevin Harvick all piled into Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.  This is not the start that Kasey Kahne wanted to his season, and when speaking to reporters, he seemed frustrated; "I listened too much to my spotter, I guess."  Kahne felt the blame should be split between himself and Regan Smith.  Listening to what Smith told his crew, he doesn't see it that way; "I was out there, he just didn't give me no damn room!"

This lap 3 crash collected some of the race favorites (Courtesy Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger led the field to the green flag on lap 47, and he was able to hold the lead until lap 95, when Brian Vickers took the lead from Allmendinger.  Vickers, who doesn't have a full-time ride for 2012, started a limited schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, driving the No. 55 car that was vacated by Mark Martin this weekend.  Martin, who is only driving a partial schedule, sat out this weekend's race at Bristol.  He will return to the car in Fontana next weekend.

Brian Vickers (55) leads AJ Allmendinger (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 116, Ken Schrader hit the wall, bringing out the second caution of the day.  All the leaders pitted, and Vickers was able to keep the lead.  On lap 122, the race went back green, Vickers was able to hold the lead for a while.  Nearly 100 laps later, on 217, Brad Keselowski was able to get around Brian Vickers for the lead.  Keseloswki regained the lead after green flag pit stops, and held the lead all the way until the caution came out on lap 340.  Following pit stops, Keselowski remained first, followed by Matt Kenseth.

Keselowski leads Matt Kenseth late in the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race went back green on lap 346, and by lap 348, Matt Kenseth was the leader.  Kenseth held the lead until the fourth caution came out on lap 359.  Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got together, and the tailpipe on the 88 car cut down the left rear of Jeff Gordon.  Gordon spun going into the corner and hit the wall.

Jeff Gordon slides down the track after hitting the wall (Courtesy Getty Images)
Kenseth led the field to the green flag on lap 371, but Keselowski would not let him get away.  After racing side-by-side for the lead for almost 15 laps, Keselowski's patience finally paid off and he was able to get the lead from the 17 car.  Kenseth was stalking Keselowski around the track until the caution came out on lap 478, when Tony Stewart was sent into the wall by Brendan Gaughan. 

On the final restart with 17 laps to go, Keselowski picked the outside lane for the first time, and was able to clear Matt Kenseth .  The race went green from then on, and Matt Kenseth was not able to make up any time on Keselowski following the restart.  Michael Waltrip Racing rounded out the top 5, with Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Brian Vickers finishing 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively.

Brad Keselowski crosses the finish line to win his second race at Bristol (Courtesy Getty Images)
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Fontana and the Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400.  A 1.5 mile oval, this track should be strong for some drivers who need the help; Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, who both wrecked today, and Jimmie Johnson, who is still coming back from his Daytona penalty.  The green flag waves next Sunday at 2:30 EST, only on FOX.

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