Brad Keselowski Saves Fuel In Kentucky For Fourth Win Of 2016by Hunter Thomas July 10, 2016 0 comments
SPARTA, Ky. – Brad Keselowski saved fuel and held off Carl Edwards in the final laps of Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 presented by Advanced Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway en route to his fourth victory of the 2016 season.
Keselowski has now won three of the six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races that he has competed in at Kentucky Speedway. With the win, the driver of Team Penske’s No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion has now visited Victory Lane more than any other driver this year. Keselowski started second and led 75 laps on Saturday night, but in the closing laps, he limped his car around the 1.5-mile track while low on fuel. As Keselowski exited Turn 4 coming to get the checkered flag, Edwards was right on his back bumper, but he was able to hold on for the victory.
“I knew we were way short of being able to make it, so I got as aggressive as I could, and somehow we made it,” Keselowski said. “ I’m not even sure you can really say we made it because we ran out with about two to go, and it was ‑‑ by running out, I mean it stumbled really, really bad, and I was able to just somehow limp it around the last two laps and stay ahead of Carl and bring her home.”
Throughout the race, there were 11 cautions for 53 laps. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out the first caution just 12 laps into the race. The field received the competition caution with 27 laps completed.
On lap 33, Jimmie Johnson brought out the caution when he spun in Turn 4 and backed his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet into the wall. Johnson spent an extensive time in the garage, but he eventually returned to the track. He finished out the night in 32nd.
Not long after the field went back to green, Joey Logano blew a right front tire in Turn 3 and brought out the caution on lap 55. Logano had to settle for a disappointing 39th place finish.
“It’s hard to say for sure, but I got loose off of four and knocked the right-rear quarter off it and then got real loose,” Logano said. “When you get loose you have to slow down more and you use a lot of brake to slow down. Usually, the next thing to go is the right-front tire and that happened. Unfortunately, I put us in a bad spot here. It’s not where we want to be and we’ll figure out next week.”
Following a caution for Matt DieBenedetto in the Turn 3 wall, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott found trouble. While racing three wide with Greg Biffle on the low side, Ryan Blaney lost control while in the middle with Chase Elliott on the high side. Blaney and Elliott sent spinning through Turn 3 and hard into the outside wall. Elliott went on to finish 31st, and Blaney finished 35th. With the crash, Blaney took a hard hit in the championship point standings. Entering the night, Blaney was 16th, the final transfer position into the Chase; however, following a rough day at Kentucky Speedway, Blaney slipped to 18th, 14 points back from Trevor Bayne, who is in 16th.
“That restart was pretty hectic from the beginning with the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) getting loose and it kind of put everybody in a bad spot, and it wound up with us being in the middle of three-wide into three,” Blaney said. “It’s so hard to get into that corner all night with a car close to behind you and outside of you, and no one lifting either, and it’s just an unfortunate spot we got put in and I hate to see two really good cars tore up. We were both very fast tonight (24 and 21) and it’s just a really unfortunate deal, but we’ll try to get it fixed and get back out there and make some laps.”
An eight-car pileup along the backstretch brought out the caution on lap 94. Among those involved, included Regan Smith, Danica Patrick, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Brian Scott, AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell and Cole Whitt. The crash started when Brian Scott lost control out of Turn 2 with Kyle Larson right on his back bumper. Scott spun across the track and right into the path of Chris Buescher, who had nowhere to go. The two made heavy contact and began a chain reaction.
“The 11(Denny Hamlin) was pretty tight on my door and I had the 42 (Kyle Larson) up my bumper there on that restart and these cars are pretty difficult to drive when you’re in that type of situation,” said driver of the No. 44 Medallion Bank Ford Fusion, Brian Scott. “I was expecting it and when it happened I thought I had it saved. I was just trying to gather it back up and lose the spots we were gonna lose, but go on and then some cars barreled in pretty fast from behind and caused a pile up. It started with me. It’s a product of new paves. You just don’t have any room and everybody holds each other really tight, and it’s just difficult. This low downforce package is racing really well, but it doesn’t really matter what downforce package you have when you’ve got two cars really tight on you from behind and on the side you just have no air on your car and there was nothing I could do.”
The final caution of the night came out on lap 195, setting the field up for a 67-lap dash to the finish. With several teams on different pit strategies, the race came down to fuel mileage. Coming to get the while flag, Brad Keselowski reported over the radio that he was out of fuel. The car began stumbling but just as Carl Edwards got to Brad on the last lap entering Turn 1, Keselowski’s car picked up the fuel and began getting back up to speed. In a tense battle, Keselowski was able to hold on thank to his fuel saving abilities and the call from his crew chief, Paul Wolfe on top of the pit box.
“It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster for sure the last few laps of that race,” said Wolfe. “When we pitted, I guess it was with about 70 to go, we knew that everyone was a little bit short. I feel like we’ve been on the good side of the fuel mileage this year. All the guys at Roush Yates have worked hard to give us power and mileage, and that showed up again tonight. With that being said, we were kind of expecting to maybe see some cautions as we did early in the race, so it wasn’t really a big concern. But with 20 to go it was time to start making decisions. As you saw, some of the guys running fifth or sixth peeled off with maybe 15-16 to go and then it was kind of decision time on what do we do. We knew we couldn’t make it. We knew we were short, but as we got out there and got the lead in that final run Brad started saving and he’s one of the best in the business at saving fuel, so as we got down to 10 to go he was like, ‘Make the call on what you want me to do.’ I kind of know what our strengths are and that’s definitely saving fuel, and I went with that strategy and told him to a 10 on the scale of save mode.”
Finishing just behind Keselowski and Edwards was Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch. Tony Stewart had a solid sixth place finish. Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-10.
Harvick, who led a race high of 128 laps on Saturday night now leads Keselowski in the championship point standings by a mere four points. Kurt Busch is third, only 16 point back from the lead.
Next on the schedule for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 17. Live coverage for the race will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Matt Hazlett/Getty Images