2011-09-01 / Sports

Keselowski Continues Win Streak

By Gerald Hodges

Brad Keselowski Brad Keselowski BRISTOL, Tenn. – Brad Keselowski got his third Sprint Cup win of the season Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Keselowski grabbed the lead on a restart with 80 laps left in the 500-lap race and held on to win for the fourth time in his career. The victory all but assured Keselowski of at least a wild-card position in the upcoming Chase.

“Wow—the night race at Bristol!” Keselowski shouted in victory lane, his broken ankle forgotten. “I used to watch Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt win this race. This is a race of champions. I can’t believe it. There’s races that pay more. There’s races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all.”

During the post-race celebration, Keselowski climbed onto the roof of his car, raised his fists into the air and then jumped from the roof to the tiled surface in victory lane. That’s when he remembered the ankle, but the sudden stab of pain didn’t diminish the satisfaction of a victory that belonged to a gritty driver and a team that produced in the pits when the race was on the line.

Since Keselowski broke his ankle, he has finished first at Pocono, second at Watkins Glen, third at Michigan and first at Bristol. He will compete with the other three race winners in the past five weeks – Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Busch – for a $3 million bonus Sept. 4 at Atlanta under the aegis of the Sprint Summer Showdown.

Should any of those drivers win the race, they’ll earn $1 million for themselves, $1 million for charity and $1 million for a fan. As a two-time winner in Showdown qualifying races, Keselowski’s will race for two fans, who will split $1 million if he wins.

Martin Truex Jr. ran second, followed by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray. Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, polesitter Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose completed the top 10.

Jeff Gordon led the most laps, and had the dominant car until the last restart, when Keselowski grabbed the lead. It seems like Gordon’s pit crew was not at the top of their game. During each pit stop Gordon lost positions to other drivers.

“We just didn’t get it done on the track there at the end,” said Gordon.

Other race notes: Jimmie Johnson gained a share of the points lead with Kyle Busch, who finished 14th. Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart had miserable nights, finishing 26th and 28th, respectively. Tenth in the standings, without a victory this season, Stewart leads Keselowski, who gained one spot to 11th place, by 21 points, with two races left before the Chase field is set. Paul Menard, David Ragan and Ambrose – potential beneficiaries of a wild-card spot in the Chase if Keselowski cracks the top- 10 – are 20th, 21st and 22nd in the standings, covered by a four-point spread. A driver must be in the top 20 after 26 races to take advantage of the wild-card rule.

Top-12 Chase leaders with two races remaining before the Chase begins: 1. Kyle Busch-830, 2. Johnson-830, 3. Kenseth-798, 4. Edwards-795, 5. Harvick-782, 6. J. Gordon- 782, 7. Newman-762, 8. Kurt Busch-749, 9. Earnhardt-728, 10. Stewart- 710, 11. Keselowski 689, 12. Bowyer-688

Busch gets record 50th Nationwide win

Kyle Busch held off his teammate Joey Logano, by just .019 of a second to win Friday night’s Food City 250 Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In doing so, Busch won his record-setting 50th Nationwide Series race, ending his tie with Mark Martin.

“ It’s awesome,” said Busch, driver of the No. 18 Toyota. “To be able to win 49 races and tie Mark Martin, and then to come here and be able to beat his record at Bristol – one of my favorite places and one of the team’s favorite places – it was certainly an awesome race tonight. We had a great race car. Clint (Bowyer) was the one I thought was going to get us and he was going to be the one we would have to beat.”

“Turned out I had to race Joey ( Logano), my own teammate, there. Those guys had a great race car.”

On pit road after the race, Logano eyed Busch’s celebration in victory lane with envy.

“I did everything I could possibly do, looking back at it,” said Logano, whose ploy to stay out on old tires during the final caution nearly paid off with a win. “I did everything I could have done besides wrecking him, but that ain’t the right thing to do when he’s your teammate – so we did everything we could do.”

Behind Busch and Logano, Clint Bowyer ran third, followed by Carl Edwards and Aric Almirola.

“I don’t know where he (Logano) came from,” said Busch, the first driver to win three straight Nationwide races at the .533-mile track. “He had a rocket ship there at the end. I just kept getting a little bit looser and a little bit looser the more we ran there.

“I thought maybe the top (lane) was going to win the thing, and I was just trying to pinch him down a little bit – he used me up.”

Michael Annett, Jason Leffler, Elliott Sadler, Parker Kligerman and Brian Scott completed the top 10. Sadler trimmed the series lead of 11th-place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to five points.

The margin of victory was the smallest for a race at Bristol since the institution of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.

Top-10 leaders after 25 of 34: 1. Stenhouse-867, 2. Sadler-862, 3. Sorenson-857, 4. Almirola-809, 5. Allgair-801, 6. Leffler-776, 7. K. Wallace- 772, 8. S. Wallace-702, 9. Scott-692, 10. Annett-687

Top-10 Camping World Truck Series leaders after 15 of 24: 1. Sauter- 561, 2. Buescher-554, 3. Peters-546, 4. A. Dillon-532, 5. Whitt-519, 6. Coulter-506, 7. Crafton – 498, 8. Kligerman-494, 9. Hornaday 493, 10. Bodine-489

Weekend racing: All three of NASCAR’s major series’ will be at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Friday, September 2, Truck Series Atlanta 200, race 16 of 24, starting time: 8 p.m.; TV: SPEED.

Saturday, September 3, Nationwide Series Great Clips 300, race 26 of 34, starting time: 7: 30 p. m.; TV: ESPN2.

Sunday, September 4, Sprint Cup Advocare 500, race 25 of 36, starting time: 7:30 p.m., TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: Who was the first Truck Series driver to win four consecutive races?

Last week’s question: Do you think Kyle Busch is showing more maturity this season? Send us an e-mail with your comments. If we use them in next week’s column, we’ll send you a photo of your favorite driver. Answer. Based on his actions in last week’s truck race at Bristol, Busch is still a “wildchild.” Here are some e-mails we received.

B. G. of York, “He has such great racing talent. He acts like someone is always stealing his candy, whether they are or not.”

S.M. of Taylorsville, N.C.: “Love him or hate him, he keeps racing stirred up, which makes it more interesting at times.”

J. H. of Somerset, Ky.: “NASCAR needs more drivers like him. His immaturity shows at times, but he’s not afraid to mix it up. He has a long way to go, but reminds me of a young Dale Earnhardt.”

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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