For the second time in as many nights at Kentucky Speedway, Brad Keselowski was the dominant driver. But in tonight’s Sprint Cup race, he was able to follow through.
A late speeding penalty may have kept Keselowski from winning last night’s Nationwide Series race. But he would not be denied in the Quaker State 400, leading 199 of 267 laps and capturing his second Sprint Cup win of the season.
Keselowski and Team Penske teammate Joey Logano had led every lap of the night prior to the two of them pitting under a Lap 214 caution. He took the subsequent restart at Lap 220 in sixth place, but charged to the front and re-took the point for good when he passed Kyle Busch with 19 laps to go.
“It was kind of one of those races where you know you just have a really fast car…and you’re just waiting for something to go wrong,” Keselowski told TNT. “And it did there on that last yellow. It just caught us out of sequence and we restarted sixth.
“We got a decent restart but I didn’t think I was gonna catch Kyle. But the car was that great. [Crew chief] Paul Wolfe and these guys are doing an awesome job. It’s just an incredible feeling to have a car this fast. I hope we can keep on this.
“I really want another championship and I think this team – we’re getting closer to that position if we keep running like this.”
For a moment, it looked like luck would go against Keselowski when that caution at Lap 214 occurred for an incident involving Aric Almirola.
Busch, along with Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr., were all pitting when that caution occurred and moved up to first, second and third respectively when Keselowski, Logano and the rest of the leaders pitted.
But knowing how good Keselowski was all night, Busch ran as hard as he could in a bid to stretch a gap to Keselowski that would prove insurmountable. It wasn’t.
“Obviously, with clean air, you’ve got to take advantage of it as much as you can,” said the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. “So, I tried to hustle as much as I could early to get a big lead and once I got to traffic, I knew I’d back up a little bit.
“But that was the loosest I was the whole race, the loosest I was at the end, especially in traffic, too. I was just trying to hang on to it as best I could and not wreck. I about did probably 10 times on that last run.”
Busch still managed to earn the runner-up ahead of Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman, who secured his first Top-5 result of the year with a third-place finish.
Matt Kenseth complimented teammate Busch’s second with a fourth-place finish that had him overcome a right-front tire failure under green at Lap 120. Earnhardt also had a great run and pulled out a fifth-place result after starting 29th.
As for Logano, who was for so long tonight the only driver that could really hang with Keselowski, he ran into trouble around 25 laps to go when his engine reportedly went down a cylinder.
Logano finally fell from the reaches of the Top 2, but was able to nurse home his sick motor and come away with an ninth-place finish – perhaps not what he ultimately wanted, but much better than the alternative.
Jeff Gordon sought a win tonight at Kentucky to become the first driver ever to win at every active NASCAR Sprint Cup track. Instead, he finished a still respectable sixth ahead of Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Logano and Jimmie Johnson in Positions 7-10.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT KENTUCKY – Quaker State 400
1. Brad Keselowski, led 199 laps
2. Kyle Busch, led 31 laps
3. Ryan Newman
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Joey Logano, led 37 laps
10. Jimmie Johnson
11. Tony Stewart
12. Kurt Busch
13. Marcos Ambrose
14. Greg Biffle
15. Paul Menard
16. Austin Dillon
17. Carl Edwards
18. Michael Annett
19. Martin Truex Jr.
20. Casey Mears
21. Danica Patrick
ONE LAP DOWN
22. AJ Allmendinger
23. Clint Bowyer
24. Justin Allgaier
25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
26. Brian Vickers
TWO LAPS DOWN
27. Reed Sorenson
THREE LAPS DOWN
28. Cole Whitt
FOUR LAPS DOWN
29. Josh Wise
30. David Gilliland
FIVE LAPS DOWN
31. David Ragan
32. Landon Cassill
SIX LAPS DOWN
33. Ryan Truex
EIGHT LAPS DOWN
34. Travis Kvapil
35. David Stremme, Lap 257, Running
36. Alex Bowman, Lap 255, Running
37. Jamie McMurray, Lap 250, Running
38. Joe Nemechek, Lap 239, Running
39. Aric Almirola, Lap 175, Accident
40. Kyle Larson, Lap 75, Accident
41. Mike Bliss, Lap 30, Transmission
42. Denny Hamlin, Lap 27, Accident