Sparta, KY.,—Brad Keselowski drove to an impressive win in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, his third victory of 2012.
“What a weekend,” said Keselowski, who was forced to a backup car after hitting the wall on lap one of the first practice of the weekend. “This is my Martinsville car from the Chase last year, so it isn’t the newest car we got, but it sure runs.”
Keselowski said the team fought back from adversity all weekend long.
“We got this car out and got it ready and on the racetrack to practice and that hard work was the weekend for us,” Keselowski said. “That’s what got us to victory lane.”
“Hard work equals results,” said Keselowski, crediting the wisdom of owner Roger Penske. “And, today we got the results and I’m proud of them.”
Keselowski is the first driver to three wins this season, but that doesn’t give any guarantees when it comes to making the Chase for the Sprint Cup—but it puts the No. 2 team in a good position.
“Three wins feels pretty darn good,” Keselowski said. “But there’s never a guarantee”
“I’m trying to look forward and not worry about the wildcard [Chase position], but glad to have the wins to fall back on,” added Keselowski.
Kasey Kahne looked forward all night following a loose right front tire early in the race, but being a lap down didn’t keep Kahne from digging—and a second place finish.
“We had to pass a ton of cars, but came up a little short,” said Kahne. “My pit crew is really, really good. We just had a couple mistakes on two different stops and we couldn’t get track position and we had to fight for a long time.”
“I wish we could have gotten to Keselowski because we need those wins,” Kahne added. “But we still had a great car and came up short.”
Third place driver Denny Hamlin was in conservation mode as the laps wound down. Hamlin said if there would have been better indication of where they were on fuel running with Keselowski would have been possible.
“I just couldn’t risk it,” said Hamlin. “At the end that one spot isn’t worth not finishing, so I had to back it down and make sure I could make it on fuel first and get a finish.”
Hamlin has suffered two straight DNF’s and took a point’s hit. The finish was the biggest priority for the No. 11 team and for Hamlin “there wasn’t a question of what I had to do, I had to back it down and conserve.”
“We backed way off,” added Hamlin. “If I was going to run the pace of the No. 2 [Keselowski] there was no way I was going to make it on fuel.”
Fuel wasn’t an issue for fourth place finisher Dale Earnhardt, Jr., — it was a loose car, but the No. 88 just can’t be upset with a fourth place finish.
“I was pretty loose I wasn’t having a lot of fun those last 30 laps,” said Earnhardt. “Just a good weekend for us, but I would have loved to have a better shot at it at the end.”
“Proud of the team,” Earnhardt added. “Just hope we can keep it up. We’re real proud of how we’re doing so far and we’d like to win another race. I really had fun winning the other week so I want to get back to victory lane.”
Jeff Gordon finished fifth, Jimmie Johnson finished sixth, and Matt Kenseth was seventh. Martin Truex, Jr. was eighth and AJ Allmendinger was ninth. Kyle Busch rounded out the top-10 despite a broken shock after dominating the early laps of the race.
Kenseth struggled throughout the night, but does remain the Sprint Cup points leader.
“It was a struggle,” said Kenseth, who added the team had a bad night on pit road. “Glad to finish seventh with as much of an uphill battle we had all night.”
Earnhardt is 11 points behind Kenseth in second, Johnson is 23 points behind in third, and Greg Biffle is 25 points behind in fourth. Hamlin (-68) is fifth and Harvick (-68) is sixth. Truex (-76) is seventh, and Tony Stewart falls to ninth 88 points back. Keselowski takes over the 10th spot 96 points back.
Other news from the Quaker State 400:
Tony Stewart was behind the wall on lap 36 with an ignition problem. Stewart returned to the track on lap 44, but on lap 45 Stewart reported over the team radio that the problem wasn’t fixed and returned to the garage where the team changed the throttle body. Stewart returned to the track to finish 32nd gaining nine valuable points.
Sonoma winner Clint Bowyer was running in the top-10 when contact from Joey Logano caused damage to the right front fender cutting a tire. Logano was bumped by Ryan Newman forcing Logano down the track into Bowyer, but no caution was brought out as both drivers were able to maintain momentum until Bowyer felt a tire issue and was able to make a green flag pit stop before causing further damage. Bowyer finished 16th, while Logano finished 22nd.
Ryan Newman brought out a lap 209 caution with a spin and hard hit to the outside wall. Newman blew a motor before going into a spin. Regan Smith was behind Newman and got into the fluid laid down on the track by the No. 39 and slid up into the wall. Both cars had significant damage. Smith and Newman finished 33rd and 34th.