Dover NASCAR: Brad Keselowski wins as strategy pays off
|By Diego Mejia||Monday, October 1st 2012, 00:02 GMT|
Brad Keselowski claimed his second win in three Chase races by beating his rivals in a fuel-mileage finish in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup round at Dover.
The Penske driver reclaimed the lead of the championship with a calculated drive that took him to his fifth win of the year.
Keselowski was a top-five contender for most of the day but did not look a threat until the final caution waved.
Pre-race favourite Jimmie Johnson was in the lead following that last yellow, caused by Chase contender Matt Kenseth spinning for a second time with 82 laps remaining.
As the lap-count faded strategies started to come into play. Hendrick driver Johnson elected to save fuel and allowed Kyle Busch to retake the lead that had been his for most of the afternoon.
While Busch stayed ahead, hoping for a caution to come out, his Joe Gibbs team-mate Denny Hamlin moved up to second place, but neither had saved enough fuel to make it to the end.
Eventually Busch had to pit 11 laps from home, while Hamlin followed a lap later, handing the lead to Keselowski as Johnson was forced to slow his pace in order to avoid an extra stop.
From behind Jeff Gordon was on a charge as he had more fuel on board, having pitted during the last caution while the leaders had all topped up during the penultimate caution a few laps earlier. The four-time champion passed Johnson for second and had Keselowski in sight but ran out of time to snatch victory.
"My guys did that," said Keselowski. "They did a great job with the fuel. Together we were able to manage it very well, which is as important as anything else in racing these days. As you saw, it came together at the end for a victory."
Keselowski's team bounced back from a slow pitstop early on, which almost cost them a lap.
Many of the Chase contenders were unable to finish on the lead lap after getting caught out by the first caution waving right after they had just pitted under green for the first time.
Only six cars finished on the lead lap as a consequence. Those having to take a splash at the end included Chase contender Hamlin, who finished eighth, and Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer.
Veteran Mark Martin got back on the lead lap during the final caution and also had enough fuel on board to jump up to third at the flag ahead of Johnson.
Carl Edwards rounded out the top five on yet another lacklustre day for Roush Fenway Racing. Besides Kenseth's incidents, caused by a mechanical failure, Greg Biffle had to make an unscheduled stop under green that placed him three laps down.
Kasey Kahne looked in position to score yet another top-five result but a suspected loose wheel and a pit penalty for a loose lug nut cost him a strong finish.
Reigning champion Tony Stewart was only 20th and finished three laps down, losing further ground in the championship Chase.
Results - 400 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 3h11m53.000s 2. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 1.078s 3. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 1.632s 4. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 6.332s 5. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 9.035s 6. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 9.824s 7. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap 8. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap 9. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 1 lap 10. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap 11. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 2 laps 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford + 3 laps 13. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 3 laps 14. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 3 laps 15. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 3 laps 16. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 3 laps 17. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 3 laps 18. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 3 laps 19. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 3 laps 20. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 3 laps 21. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 3 laps 22. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 4 laps 23. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 5 laps 24. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 6 laps 25. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge + 7 laps 26. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 7 laps 27. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 7 laps 28. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 7 laps 29. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 8 laps 30. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 8 laps 31. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 9 laps 32. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 9 laps 33. TJ Bell FAS Lane Ford + 10 laps 34. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet + 12 laps 35. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 29 laps 36. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 46 laps Retirements: Josh Wise Front Row Ford 92 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 51 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 48 laps Scott Speed Leavine Ford 32 laps Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 29 laps Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 26 laps Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Chevrolet 18 laps