|Photo- Getty Images
By Jason Schultz
A long weekend for Keselowski ends in triumph.
Keselowski dominated the second-half of the race and took the checkers at Kentucky Speedway Saturday Night. Keselowski had a bunch of issues throughout the weekend, including a backup car and broken steering wheel but the Miller Lite team did not give up. They persevered, with their hard work paying off with a trip to victory lane.
Overall, the race wasn’t too exciting but it did include some action. The passing started early when Kyle Busch passed pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson on the first lap for the lead.
Tony Stewart started experiencing ignition issues in lap 26 and was in and out of the garage for most of the night. Stewart ended the race finishing in 32nd-place, taking a hit in the point standings by dropping four spots to ninth.
Brad Keselowski took the lead for the first time on lap 35 when he got around Kyle Busch.
The first caution of the night came out on lap 42 when debris was spotted in turns one and two. On the restart, Kyle Bush won the race off it road to re-gain the lead, followed by Johnson, Hamlin, Keselowski and Earnhardt Jr.
On lap 96, the first round of green-flag pit stops began, and after the stops cycled through, Kyle Busch was the leader.
The next yellow-flag came out on lap 124 for debris. Kyle Busch would once again be the leader coming to the restart.
On lap 130, Hamlin scooted around Busch for the lead.
Dave Blaney’s engine expired on lap 149 and the caution came out once again.
On lap 160, Ryan Newman ran up the track into Logano’s slower car on the front-stretch and tapped Logano down into Bowyer. No cars spun and no caution came out. As a result of this scuffle, Logano was even slower on the track and Bowyer pitted to repair damage to his No. 15 car.
By lap 189, Jimmie Johnson became the new leader. The top-five on lap 190 were Johnson, Hamlin, Keselowski, Gordon and Earnhardt Jr.
The next cycle of green-flag stops began on lap 201. Fuel was tight on this stop with Keselowski and Kyle Busch both running out of gas before making their way onto pit road.
The next caution flew on lap 210 when Ryan Newman blew an engine and spun into the wall. Newman left behind some oil which Regan Smith found and he also tagged the wall.
The dominant car from the first part of the race was Kyle Busch and now the No.18 crew struck trouble once again. Busch was complaining of a shock issue and the team told him to keep running. During this caution, the team pitted to evaluate the issue. Nothing seemed severely wrong, so Busch continued the race.
Coming to the restart, Keselowski was the leader followed by Hamlin, Kenseth, Edwards and Johnson. Just after the restart, Hamlin would get around Edwards for second and he began to chase down Keselowski. Hamlin never reached Keselowski but Kahne reached Hamlin for second with three to go.
Although Kahne got around Hamlin for second with three to go, time ran out for Kahne to improve his position.
Keselowski picked up his third win of the season and his first Cup win at Kentucky. In victory lane, Keselowski said that his team had “fought through adversary all weekend.”
This win essentially put a lock on a Chase bid for Keselowski. With three wins before the official halfway mark of the season, Keselowski is looking pretty good.
Kahne said after the race that he “wish(ed) we could of caught Keselowski, we need these wins.”
After the highs and lows for Kyle Busch during this race, he ended up finishing tenth which is a good run, considering all the trouble he experienced throughout the race.
The Hendrick organization had a great night with all four of their cars placing finishes in the top six.
Keselowski is likely the first of many drivers to essentially clinch chase berths throughout the summer. Perseverance was the name of the game for Keselowski this weekend and he ended up in victory lane.
Next week teams go down to Daytona to celebrate a Fourth of July tradition – NASCAR action at Daytona. The fireworks will definitely be going off next Saturday Night.
Results via Nascar.com and Point Standings
Jimmie Johnson wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole award since 2010 with a record-breaking lap speed of 181.818-mph.
As the only five-time champion in NASCAR’s history, Johnson now holds the track record over Kyle Busch who was awarded the distinction in the inaugural Quaker State 400’s practice session, when the traditional qualifying process was rained out in 2011.
Over the last couple years, qualifying has been a challenge for the No. 48 team. So Johnson was pleased with their 2012 qualifying performance at Kentucky Speedway’s first real qualifying event for the Sprint Cup series.
“It was a very comfortable lap, a very good lap. Qualifying has not been our strong suit the last two years, so we’re happy to get this pole today,” said Jimmie Johnson. “The conditions were so slick, it took a while to get the feeling I was looking for. We’re on the right track now.”
Although, this weekend is only the second Sprint Cup Series race at the track, Johnson says he’s not unfamiliar with it’s unique characteristics, which may have served him well in getting his car ready for qualifying and racing on Saturday night.
“This track has so much character. It would be great to win here at Kentucky. We used to test here a lot back in the day. Turns 3 and 4 have taken quite a few 48 race cars from us, so last year was good for me. I came back with a lot of confidence,” Johnson said.
|2012 Kentucky Pole Winner Jimmie Johnson
Photo – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Joining Jimmie Johnson on the front row, Kyle Busch will certainly provide some competition for the five-time champion in the Quaker State 400 as he became the first driver to earn race wins in four different series at Kentucky Speedway when he took the checkered flag at the last year’s Quaker State 400. Busch, known as a talented wheelman still start the race on Saturday night having led 704 of the 1,819 Kentucky Speedway laps he’s raced while racking up a total six top-five and eight top-ten finishes across a combined ten Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck, and ARCA Racing series starts.
Although his qualifying effort fell short of expectations, Kyle Busch goes into the Quaker State 400 with a level of confidence, based on his past performance at the track.
“I was certainly hoping for a little bit more there, but we weren’t able to achieve what we needed to,” said Kyle Busch. “We’re going into tomorrow night’s race with good pit selection and we’re starting up front, which is good for us. I typically don’t qualify well, but this is a place where we know what we have to do to qualify well.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin qualified third with a lap speed of 181.147-mph. But the challenge for Joe Gibbs Racing drivers continues to be their engine failures during the 2012 season thus far. The money question for the Gibbs racing drivers remains, will their engines hold up for the duration of the race tonight?
The inaugural Kentucky Speedway Nationwide series winner, Kevin Harvick will start along-side Denny Hamlin in the second row with his qualifying lap of 180.367-mph and will represent Richard Childress Racing in the quest to continue breaking records in the second annual event at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night.
Tune in tonight on TNT for their 6:30pm ET pre-race show with the race scheduled to begin around 7:30pm ET.
For this race, Fan4Racing is conducting a Race Day Chat on our Official Facebook page. Click the “Let’s Talk” chatroom link. Or fans can join the conversation by clicking the Race Day Chat page link on our Fan4Racing site. Space is limited, so plan to join us early. See you there!
- Join Fan4Racing writers for a live Race Day Chat for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Quaker State 400
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