Saturday, June 30, 2012

Keselowski Cruises to Victory in Kentucky

Brad Keselowski finished seventh in his first trip to Kentucky Speedway, a strong outing for the new event last year.  Keselowski ran all three races this weekend: he finished second in the Truck Series race and seventh in the Nationwide Series race.  After learning all he could learn in both events, Keselowski was able to put his knowledge to good use when he ran away from the field to win at Kentucky Speedway.

Brad Keselowski celebrates his first win at Kentucky (Courtesy Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson won his first pole since 2010, and led the field to the green flag.  He started on the high side, but he got a bad start that bunched up the front of the field, and Kyle Busch was able to pass him for the lead.  Coming out of Turn 4, Busch's teammate Denny Hamlin was able to pass Johnson for second.  On lap 27, Brad Keselowski drove around Hamlin for second place, but they were both still a second behind Kyle Busch.

On the same lap, Tony Stewart's car began to slow with a mechanical problem.  He came in to pit, and the team tried to fill it up with gas and wanted to see if he could run a lap.  When Stewart dropped the clutch, his car wouldn't move, and his team went under the hood.  The team took his car to the garage, to try and fix what they believed was a throttle body issue

Keselowski made short work of Busch's 1-second lead, and, on lap 35, took the lead.  On lap 42, the first caution flag flew for debris.  Under the caution, Tony Stewart came back out of the garage, but his stay didn't last long; he came back into the garage two laps later and got out of the car.

Kyle Busch leads Brad Keselowski (Courtesy Getty Images)
On the lap 48 restart, Kyle Busch led Johnson, Hamlin, Keselowski, and Clint Bowyer.  This time, Busch started on the outside and he was able to clear Johnson to stay in the lead.  Keselowski quickly got around Hamlin and Johnson to move up to second place.  On lap 53, Kasey Kahne pulled off the track to make an unscheduled four-tire pit stop. 

Kevin Harvick pitted on lap 90 to begin a round of green-flag pit stops.  Though he stopped about six laps early, everyone began to make their pit stops as well.  By lap 102, the round of pit stops had cycled around, and Busch remained the leader, and was followed by Keselowski, Johnson, Hamlin, and Bowyer.

On lap 125, the night's second caution came out for debris on the front stretch.  The leaders pitted, and the race restarted on lap 129, with Kyle Busch leading Hamlin, Johnson, Keselowski, and Bowyer.  On the restart, Hamlin was able to get around his teammate for the lead.  On lap 133, Johnson was able to get around Busch for second place. 

Denny Hamlin leads Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski (Courtesy Getty Images)
The third caution came out for a blown engine by Dave Blaney on lap 149.  The leaders pitted, and the race restarted on lap 155.  Hamlin led Johnson, Busch, Keselowski, and Martin Truex Jr. on the restart.  On lap 189, Johnson was able to drive under Hamlin for the lead.  On lap 192, Kyle Busch, who dominated early, radioed in to his crew chief, "Something's broke in the back.  I don't know what it is, but something's broke."  Busch's car was bouncing, and he was beginning to lose spots. 

On lap 201, everyone began to make what was to be their final green-flag pit stops.  During the round of pit stops, Keselowski and Busch ran out of fuel, but they were able to get around to pit road to make their stops.  On lap 210, Ryan Newman ran into some oil, and he lost control of his car and slammed into the outside wall.  Behind Newman, Regan Smith also hit the wall after getting into some of the oil. 

Keselowski led Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and Johnson on the lap 220 restart.  Keselowski shot out to an early lead, while Edwards got around Hamlin for second.  On the restart, Jimmie Johnson began complaining of a loose car, and he wasn't sure if he had a flat tire, a loose wheel, or if he had just gotten some speedy-dry on his tires.  At the same time, Hamlin was able to get back around Edwards for second place. 

Courtesy Getty Images
With about 10 laps to go, Kasey Kahne's car came alive, and he blew around Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Edwards, and Hamlin to move up to second place.  Though he was flying, he just didn't have enough time to catch Keselowski, and Brad won his third race of the 2012 season. 

Denny Hamlin finished third, and he was followed by the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson.  Points-leader Matt Kenseth finished sixth, Martin Truex Jr. was eighth, and AJ Allmendinger finished ninth. Kyle Busch finished tenth after dominating for the first part of the race.  Carl Edwards finished 20th after having to pit with four laps to go to get fuel.  Edwards' teammate Greg Biffle finished 21st.  Michael Waltrip, stepping in to the No. 55 Toyota in his home state of Kentucky, finished 30th.  Tony Stewart finished 32nd after his early problems. 

The Quaker State 400 wasn't a very eventful race, but it was a quick one; the race was run in just 2 hours and 46 minutes.  Brad Keselowski unofficially locked himself into the Chase by winning his third race of the season.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400.  The race will be Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., with TNT's "Wide Open Coverage."

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