Keselowski races to 5th Nationwide win

Roger Penske really is serious about the Nationwide Series. Brad

Keselowski’s dominant first season with the famed car owner is

proof.

Keselowski put Penske closer to his first NASCAR series title

when he pulled away from Martin Truex Jr. on a late restart Friday

night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was Keselowski’s fifth

victory of the season and gave him a 450-point lead over Carl

Edwards.

Needing Keselowski to finish only 26th over better in the final

four races to clinch the title, Penske turned to crew chief Paul

Wolfe after the race and reminded him about a conversation before

the season. Wolfe wanted to know if Penske, best known for his

open-wheel cars and Sprint Cup teams, was dedicated to the

lower-tier Nationwide Series.

”I guess, Paul, we are, aren’t we?” Penske said, smiling. ”We

continue to try to let you know that.”

After some brief side-by-side racing with Truex on the restart

with eight laps left, Keselowski pulled ahead and wasn’t

challenged. Penske teammate Justin Allgaier finished third,

followed by Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer, who started on the pole

but had a costly pit-road speeding penalty late.

”I’ve never been so disappointed to finish second, to be

honest,” Truex said. ”We had a good car there in the middle of

the race. The long green-flag runs were really good for us. Once we

pitted and put that last set of tires on it was just a little bit

too tight. Just couldn’t quite clear Brad for the lead.”

While Danica Patrick posted her best finish in her nine

Nationwide races – 21st although she was two laps down at the end –

Keselowski had little competition once Kyle Busch had handling

problems after halfway through the race. Busch finished sixth and

Edwards, closest to Keselowski in the standings, was 13th.

”That was awesome,” said Keselowski, in his first full season

with Penske. ”Our car was really good.”

Bowyer, who seemed to have the only car capable of competing

with Busch early, was penalized for speeding on pit road with 42

laps left, dropping him to 16th.

Bowyer’s penalty came during an odd caution to correct a scoring

error.

NASCAR acknowledged it mistakenly penalized Brian Scott for a

missing lug nut. When they were all accounted for, NASCAR put out

the caution flag and allowed Scott to regain his original

position.

Keselowski didn’t pit and took the lead on the restart – his

third lead of the race. He built a 1.5-second advantage before

Scott wrecked and tore out a chunk of infield grass with 19 laps

left to bring out another caution in the 200-lap race.

Keselowski earned his 11th career win and topped his

four-victory season from a year ago.

Patrick continued her learning process.

Making her first start on the big track at Charlotte after

running go-karts here as a teenager, Patrick vowed Thursday to be

aggressive on the track, if needed. James Buescher wrecked her a

week earlier at California to end her chances of a top-15

finish.

But Patrick never raced side-by-side with Buescher – and was

never a factor in the 300-mile race. She bumped the outside wall

early on and kept control of her No. 7 Chevrolet, but she soon fell

a lap down after green-flag pit stops.

”It seems like every time we have a chance to have a great

finish we crash,” Patrick said. ”And every time we have a pretty

average night we finish and we finish in the 20s.”

The previous best Nationwide finish for Patrick, primarily an

IndyCar driver, was 24th. She has struggled with the boxier stock

cars.

”We did our best and we had some high points this weekend,”

she said. ”That hasn’t happened a lot of other times I’ve been to

a track for the first time. We’ll take the high points and take a

non-crash home and learn from this new car this time.”

Busch, who picked up his 12th series win of the year last week,

had handling problems late in the race after dominating early.

Busch shot from sixth to first in 23 laps and led for much of

the middle of the race until a series of green-flag pit stops put

cars out of sequence. After briefly being a lap down, Busch moved

to the front with 54 laps to go.