More trouble in Victory Lane than getting there for Keselowski
SPARTA, Ky. — Racing 400 miles shouldn’t be as easy as Brad Keselowski made it look Saturday night. Even he couldn’t believe it.
"It’s one of those races where the whole race you just know that you’ve got a really fast car," Keselowski said. "My Miller Lite Fusion was haulin’ the mail and you’re just waiting for something to go wrong."
Keselowski had more troubles after winning the Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway for the second time in three years than he did during the race. He had to receive four stitches on his right hand from the infield care center after cutting himself on a celebratory champagne bottle.
The worst thing that happened to Keselowski on his way to winning the race was he came out of a caution period restart with just under 50 laps to go in fifth place. All that did was add some bit of drama to what was otherwise Keselowski’s runaway show.
Keselowski caught up to Kyle Busch on Lap 248 of the 267-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway and cruised to his second win of the season. Keselowski started from the pole and led 199 laps around the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Caution flags and restarts were his only irritants all evening.
"That last yellow caught us out of sequence," said Keselowski. "I had a decent restart but I didn’t think I was going to catch Kyle. The car was that great. (Crew chief) Paul Wolfe, these guys are doing an awesome job. It’s just an incredible feeling having a car this fast. I hope we can keep it this fast. I really want another championship and I think this team, we’re getting close to that position if we keep running like this."
Keselowski, 30, is the first two-time winner of the Quaker State 400. He won in 2012 en route to winning the Sprint Cup series championship. In his four Sprint Cup races at Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski has led 346 laps. Saturday night was just a continuation of his entire weekend in Sparta.
Keselowski had won the pole for Friday night’s Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 and led 138 of the first 150 laps of that event before being penalized for speeding on pit row. Despite the penalty, he nearly recovered in time to win but was runner-up to Kevin Harvick by less than one second. He was fifth in Thursday night’s Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 race.
Keselowski set the Kentucky Speedway track record in qualifying, clocking a top speed of 188.791 mph on Friday afternoon. He took off from the green flag Saturday and led the first 78 laps before giving up first place to fellow Team Penske member Joey Logano on Lap 79 under caution. He and Logano were the only drivers to lead the race through the first 216 laps.
Logano fell out of contention and finished ninth after leading 37 laps.
Jimmie Johnson was having a similar dominating race last year before a caution period and controversial restart with 20 laps to go left him seething and in ninth place.
That’s one of the reasons why Keselowski wasn’t banking on just being the fastest car. He hadn’t won since March 9 at Las Vegas, the third race of the season. This was race No. 17 of the Sprint Cup schedule. They’ve been in the top five of just four races since before Saturday night, but three of those races had come in the last month.
Saturday’s win moved Keselowski up to fourth in the Sprint Cup standings with nine races to go before the Chase for the Cup begins.
Keselowski has been to Victory Lane 12 times now in 178 Sprint Cup starts. There’s a long way to go before the series championship is decided in November, plenty of time for him to work on his celebrations should he be so dominate again.
"We were just playing around with some champagne bottles and as I told my good friend, ‘We should have stuck with beer,’" said Keselowski. "We were having too much fun with champagne and one of the bottles broke and I cut my hand open. It’s no big deal.
"Welcome to the party. It’s all good. I’m just glad we won. It’s a lot better when you win and get hurt."