Brad Keselowski overcomes testing injury to win Pocono 500
|By Diego Mejia||Sunday, August 7th 2011, 23:01 GMT|
Brad Keselowski claimed his second Sprint Cup win of the season at Pocono, making a strong bid to become a Chase contender in the process.
The Penske driver drove through the pain of an ankle injury sustained in a testing crash last Wednesday at Road Atlanta, to hold off a charging Kyle Busch in the closing laps of Sunday's rain-affected event at Pocono.
Keselowski and his team-mate Kurt Busch got in position to fight for victory in the closing stages of the race right before rain arrived past the halfway mark of the event.
When the caution waved the Penske duo pitted, giving up track position but betting on the race being restarted.
Following an hour and 40 minutes of stoppage racing finally resumed under the fourth caution, allowing Keselowski and Busch to see their gamble pay off as the leaders pitted before the green flag waved once again.
However it was only until the final round of pitstops cycled that Keselowski got his challenge on a head of steam. Running second at the time the final caution waved for an incident between Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne, he restarted on the outside of Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch, who was leading the race.
As the green waved with 16 laps remaining, Keselowski was able to jump in the lead as Busch had to fend off an attack from Hendrick Motorsport's Jimmie Johnson. From then on it was a battle of two as the younger of the Busch siblings tried to regain the lead.
The gap between the pair was never bigger than sixth tenths of a second and Busch tried every line possible out of the crucial final turn to try to close on Keselowski. However the current Nationwide Series champion didn't put a foot wrong and went on to claim his second victory of 2011, the third of his Cup career.
His win puts him in a strong position to claim one of the wildcard entries available for the Chase this year, as he is the only driver between 10th and 20th in points with two victories to his name.
"I know it just hurt," said Keselowski after racing to victory despite an avulsion fracture to his left ankle. "It felt a lot better when I went through that checkered flag and until I got back out of the car, that didn't feel a lot better.
"It all worked out today and I'm thankful I have good people that help me though it. We had a great strategy today. Strategy didn't win us the race but it gave us the opportunity to win it and we were able to win on our own merits."
While trying everything possible to beat Keselowski, Kyle Busch came out sideways of the final turn of the race, the same where he spun on lap 14 causing the first caution of the day.
He finished second twice during the day as he was runner up earlier in a trucks race to Kevin Harvick.
If the battle for victory was intense, right behind things got hot in the fight for third place on the final lap between Keselowski's team-mate and Johnson. The pair banged fenders a couple of times at the exit of Turn 1 and Busch finally came out with the longest end of the stick. The pair exchanged some harsh words on pit road after the finish.
Behind Johnson, Newman rounded out the top five, his Hendrick team-mate Jeff Gordon was sixth, while Carl Edwards was seventh and continues to lead the driver standings. Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard completed the top 10.
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers were all leaders at various times, Denny Hamlin getting the point for the most laps led - all of them in the first half of the distance - but then succumbed to a delayed last stop under the final caution.
His team-mate Joey Logano was leading the race when the rain arrived after gambling on a two-tyre stop before the weather halted the race, as most took a full new set of Goodyears. However he would only finish 26, the last car on the lead lap, folllowing a late stop for tyres due to a suspected puncture.
Results - 200 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 3h37m35.000s 2. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 0.791s 3. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge + 4.508s 4. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 4.624s 5. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 5.744s 6. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 5.949s 7. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 6.344s 8. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 8.370s 9. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 10.008s 10. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 10.546s 11. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 11.328s 12. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 11.999s 13. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet + 12.419s 14. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 13.412s 15. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 13.757s 16. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 14.990s 17. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 15.281s 18. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet + 16.642s 19. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford + 16.967s 20. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 17.400s 21. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 18.901s 22. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 20.616s 23. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 21.013s 24. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota + 21.886s 25. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 22.679s 26. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 43.202s 27. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet + 1 lap 28. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota + 1 lap 29. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet + 1 lap 30. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 2 laps 31. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford + 2 laps 32. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 2 laps 33. Jason White FAS Lane Ford + 3 laps 34. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford + 51 laps Retirements: Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 79 laps Casey Mears Germain Toyota 30 laps Todd Bodine HP Toyota 25 laps David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 18 laps Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 18 laps Scott Speed Max Q Ford 16 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 14 laps Erik Darnell Whitney Chevrolet 8 laps JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 7 laps