Brad Keselowski overcame a pit-road penalty and a bout of overheating to make a late charge to victory in Saturday night’s U.S. Cellular 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway.
Keselowski, the only NASCAR Sprint Cup regular in the field, won his third Nationwide race in nine starts this season and the 23rd of his career. His Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., finished second, ahead of Brian Vickers and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson completed the top five.
It was a big day for Keselowski, as his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry driven by Ryan Blaney won earlier Saturday at Pocono Raceway.
“When you have a team like this, Penske Racing, the Discount Tire team, they just didn’t give up,” said Keselowski. “And they kept working on it and fighting back. I knew it was going to be about that last restart and being really aggressive and, boy, it was. But that’s what it’s going to take to win these races.”
“Brad was playing with me a little bit at the end,” said Hornish. “He let me catch up to him. … Really proud of what we were able to do.”
Series points leader Dillon led the most laps and dominated until a late caution opened the door for Keselowski, who with 36 laps to go, drove his No. 12 Penske Racing Ford Mustang past Vickers for a lead he would not relinquish.
Early on, the black No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro of Dillon seemed like the car to beat.
Dillon passed Regan Smith on the 86th of 250 laps and from there led 116 laps. Then it all went wrong for Dillon.
Travis Pastrana spun out on Lap 199 to bring out only the third caution flag of the race. Under yellow, Trevor Bayne took the lead on pit road, as the first four cars took just two tires on their respective stops. Dillon rejoined the race in fifth place, the first car with four fresh tires. Keselowski was two positions back in seventh. On the restart, Vickers passed Bayne for the lead.
Pre-race favorite Keselowski seemed like he wouldn’t be a major factor in the outcome, as he suffered from both a pit-road penalty for having equipment outside the pit box during his first stop, as well as an overheating engine in his Penske Racing Ford Mustang.
But Keselowski took four tires on his final pit stop and charged back to the front of the field.
On lap 208, Keselowski passed Elliott Sadler and then Bayne for second place. Then, on lap 215, he blew past Vickers for the lead and the victory.