Brad Keselowski Wins Coke Zero 400 At Daytona And Earns Team Penske’s 100th Series Victoryby Benjamin Sanders July 3, 2016 0 comments
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brad Keselowski earned Team Penske’s 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory on Saturday night after winning the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway.
Keselowski dominated the race and was in front of the pack for 115 of the 161 laps. After taking the lead from Carl Edwards on lap nine and leading on another eight occasions, Keselowski showed that he had the strongest car as he consistently gapped the field and ran nearly anywhere on the speedway. The win marks Keselowski’s third victory of the season but it was his first at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s been a kick in the you-know-what,” Keselowski said. “I got down on myself here. We came down here for the 500 and quite honestly we ran like dog crap, but my team worked on it. I didn’t give up on them. I believe in my team and my team believes in me and we went to work and we put together a better car, and it really showed today with a great effort from the whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”
The racing was frantic but clean through the first 90 laps, only stopping once for the competition caution. That soon changed on lap 91 when Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray got together in Turn 1. After contact from Johnson, Jamie McMurray spun across the track and hard into the SAFER barrier.
“I think somebody might have gotten into my left rear,” McMurray said. “I don’t know if that cut the tire down or what but after I felt that happen, I just didn’t have any control any more. It seemed like a tire maybe went down and it actually felt like I hit oil. So, once you get to that point you just don’t…I think the contact with the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) might have cut the tire because I just didn’t have any control of the car there. It is unfortunate but it is just part of plate racing. I rode back in the ambulance with all those guys and we just talked about it is part of plate racing.”
The track was clogged in such a manner that Brian Scott ended up on the roof of Kevin Harvick for a short period of time as the wreck ensued. Turn 1 looked like a junkyard as 22 cars sat battered and broken on the apron of the racetrack.
“Those guys got tangled up there in front and we were in the middle of it,” Harvick said. “We had one car on our roof and everybody else just kept piling in. I don’t know who that was. It was just one of those things that just doesn’t take much for it all to go south here at these superspeedways.”
After a lengthy clean up, racing got back under way on lap 102 with the Team Penske duo once again heading the field, first Joey Logano and then back to the dominant Keselowski. This portion of the race was calmer as drivers chose to ride around the top groove, waiting for the final pit stops, only to be halted by a debris caution on lap 131.
In the last 25 laps of a restrictor plate race, track position is everything and drivers get desperate knowing that time is running out. Tony Stewart recognized this and made a charge to the front, after hanging around in the back for most of the race. After moving up to the top-five, he and teammate Kurt Busch made an aggressive move to the high groove looking to overhaul the leader. That run curtailed on lap 150 when Stewart got extremely loose and lost control in Turn 1. His night was over, and Ryan Blaney, Trevor Bayne, Casey Mears and Carl Edwards were also involved in the accident.
“I got loose into one there,” Stewart said. “Hadn’t been loose all day, but I got loose there and then over-corrected for it and drove it in the fence. So definitely my fault.”
The fifth and final caution came out with four laps to go when Carl Edwards got turned into the outside wall, thus setting up a green-white-checker finish. This did not affect Keselowski as he gapped the field on the restart after a strong push from his teammate, Logano from the outside lane. With the Busch brothers behind him, nobody had anything for Keselowski’s Team Penske Ford. He took the checkered flag, just in front of Kyle Busch, while Kurt Busch slid through the infield grass after contact from Joey Logano.
“It was really close to Talladega,” said Busch, who finished second. “We finished second at Talladega. Just there at the end of the race the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car was really, really fast. Really, really strong. It’s really hard to get by him. I tried just about everything. The only thing I didn’t quite have was a big enough push one time to just try to make a move. He was really good at making that thing pretty wide.”
Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five. Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon finished sixth and seventh. Pole sitter, Greg Biffle finished eighth, and Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell completed the top-10.
Although Harvick was involved in the huge wreck on Saturday night, he currently leads the championship point standings by 14 points over race winner, Brad Keselowski. Kurt Busch is third, 20 point back.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ventures to the newly repaved Kentucky Speedway on Saturday July 9 for the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Live broadcast for the race will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and on the Performance Racing Network (PRN).
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images