Brad Keselowski claimed his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
The Penske driver fought back from a tough start to his weekend after he crashed his primary car on the opening practice lap on Friday, following a clash with Juan Pablo Montoya. Despite losing almost half the practice time available he went on to qualify eighth and then be a contender for victory, taking a commanding win after 400 miles.
Keselowski showed his speed from the early going, grabbing the lead for the first time on lap 34 and remaining a top-five factor throughout the evening. He grabbed the lead for good during the final caution, staying out as others pitted but then storming clear on the last restart to pull away and grab his seventh Cup career win.
His third victory of the season gives him more possible bonus points towards his Chase seeding than any other driver thus far. Keselowski currently ranks 10th in the standings following reliability issues that hampered him during the early part of the year.
"To put together a back-up car from last year in 100-degree heat in an hour's time and get it on the race track - not even an hour, I think it was like 40 minutes... Got it on the racetrack and got to run our laps for practice to make the adjustments we needed to be fast today... That's what badasses do and that's what got us to Victory Lane today and I'm proud of these guys, damn proud of them," said Keselowski.
The former Nationwide Series champion was also forced to change his steering wheel just before the race after finding the one fitted to the car was damaged. Keselowski's Cup win following second places in the Truck and Nationwide races on Thursday and Friday.
Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne headed a great day for the team as all its cars finished among the top six. Kahne was the man on the move in the closing stages of the race, charging through the top 10 up to second but running out of laps to contend for victory.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, fresh from announcing a new multi-year deal with his outfit right before the race, had the speed to fight for victory but the need to save fuel on the final stint stopped him from demonstrating if he had anything for Keselowski.
Behind him, Hendrick's Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five with a strong run in the deciding stages of the race. Their team-mate Jimmie Johnson seemed to have the speed to challenge for victory but a slow final restart, in which he apparently ran over some fluid on the track, dropped him down the order and out pf contention for the win.
Last year's Kentucky winner Kyle Busch (Gibbs) led the most laps but clipped the wall while running up front, with Keselowski in his rear-view mirrors. Although the contact did not seem to affect his speed initially, he would then struggle with a broken shock mount, plus he ran out of fuel right before his final planned stop.
Reigning champion Tony Stewart had a disastrous day as his Stewart-Haas car suffered ignition issues early on and had to return to the garage for repairs.
Matt Kenseth was the best Ford in seventh, keeping the points lead for yet another week. His Roush Fenway team-mate Carl Edwards was forced take a late splash of fuel in the final laps while running among the top five.
Results - 267 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 2h45m02.000s 2. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 4.399s 3. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 5.511s 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 6.099s 5. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 6.359s 6. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 6.995s 7. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 7.376s 8. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 8.470s 9. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge + 10.585s 10. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 10.647s 11. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 12.354s 12. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 13.343s 13. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 14.067s 14. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 17.347s 15. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 21.280s 16. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 22.368s 17. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 25.560s 18. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 25.834s 19. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 28.533s 20. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 1 lap 21. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 1 lap 22. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap 23. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet + 1 lap 24. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 1 lap 25. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 1 lap 26. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 1 lap 27. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 2 laps 28. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 2 laps 29. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 4 laps 30. Michael Waltrip Waltrip Toyota + 5 laps 31. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford + 5 laps 32. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 36 laps Retirements: Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 209 laps Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 208 laps Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 144 laps David Stremme Inception Toyota 71 laps Josh Wise Front Row Ford 60 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 58 laps Scott Speed Leavine Ford 55 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 52 laps Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 47 laps Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 18 laps Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 12 laps