DAYTONA BEACH FLA- Brad Keselowski accomplished a career first Saturday winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coke Zero 400 for his first Sprint Cup restrictor plate race victory at Daytona International Speedway. It was his first win at the speedway in 15 starts.
“It’s been a kick in the you-know-what, ” Keselowski said. “I got down on myself here. We came down here for the 500 and quite honestly we ran like dog crap, but my team worked on it. I didn’t give up on them. I believe in my team and my team believes in me and we went to work and we put together a better car, and it really showed today with a great effort from the whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”
The Penske Racing driver, who had four restrictor plate wins coming into Saturday night but only at Talladega Superspeedway, was the class of the field leading a race high 115 of the 161 laps run. He held off Kurt and Kyle Busch on the final lap and scored his 20th career win in an overtime finish.
“Those guys were doing a heck of a job,” Keselowski said. “Kyle and Kurt worked together really well, and my teammate Joey Logano was a huge part of this today. We had two great cars here with Team Penske and worked together really well. Joey has won here and he’s really a pro, especially on that restart. He gave me that push I need to get to the front and here we are at Daytona in Victory Lane. I don’t care if it’s not the 500. It’s Daytona. This is huge.”
Keselowski also avoided the carnage that put many of the favorites out of contention and provided on-track fireworks for NASCAR’s 4th of July holiday event. The largest of which involved 22 of the 40 cars entered.
The crash erupted on lap 90 as the field entered turn 1. Jamie McMurray got loose and got into Jimmie Johnson near the front of the field. Among the 22 cars swept up in the melee were driver’s Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, and race polesitter Greg Biffle.
“I was in the middle and something happened to the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray),” Johnson said. “He went to the right and then he chased it…and was in a slide and came back down in front of me, hit the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) door-to-door – kind of light contact. I thought we were fine, but I eventually turned him sideways and the whole thing happened. I don’t know what happened to the No. 1 to change lanes as fast as he did from the outside, but we are all dealing with a matter of inches and once that started, it just collected everybody.”
Most were able to continue but not without extensive repairs. Another favorite also saw his race end in disaster. On lap 148 while running in fifth, Tony Stewart got loose exiting turn 2. Stewart’s Chevy spun down and into the car of Ryan Blaney, with the cars of Casey Mears and Carl Edwards crashing into him. Stewart’s final race ended in the garage and with a 26th place finish. Despite the finish, Stewart took solace in the fact that he was finally able to make it into the top 30 in points, which combined with his win at Sonoma, puts Stewart in position to make this years Chase.
The races final caution came out six laps from the finish when AJ Allmendinger and Clint Bowyer got together sending Allmendinger into the wall. Both cars were able to continue, but behind them a chain reaction started as Edwards checked up got into Blaney and ended in the outside wall along the frontstretch collecting Bobby Labonte. The races fifth caution set up a green-white-checkered flag finish.
On the restart Keselowski took the lead one final time as Kurt and Kyle Busch dueled behind him. Exiting turn 4, Kurt Busch got together with Joey Logano and was sent spinning into the frontstretch infield. Keselowski crossed the line for the win, Kyle Busch held on for second; Trevor Bayne was third followed by Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in fifth.
“Anytime you have an opportunity to win and you are in the top four or five or six on the last restart you know you have a shot at it,” Logano said. “I was able to get Brad a good push to clear and get a Penske car to victory lane which is really cool. Todd Gordon made a great call to put four tires on which allowed us to be aggressive at the end.”
“I hate that I got into Kurt (Busch) there at the end racing to the line,” Logano added. “I had a run to turn up underneath him and when you do that the cars get free and then I was there and he tried to catch it and I was there again. It is a product of this racing but I hate that it happened. The last thing I want to do is hit someone like that. Unfortunately, it happened. Overall a solid day for us. The 2 was the fastest car and he deserved to win the race. We need to find a little more speed in our race car.”
Kyle Larson was sixth, Austin Dillon was seventh, Biffle recovered to finish eighth with Bowyer and Michael McDowell rounding out the top 10. The full results can be found here. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Kentucky Speedway next Saturday night for the Quaker State 400 at 7:30 p.m. with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network.