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Keselowski uses quick stop to win at Bristol

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Saturday, August 27, 2011

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Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes continued Saturday, with an improbable victory in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway—his third win of the season and his second since breaking his left ankle Aug. 3 in a crash during testing at Road Atlanta.

Keselowski grabbed the lead on a restart with 80 laps left in the 500-lap Sprint Cup 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 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

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.

Johnson, Kenseth and Edwards all clinched spots in the Chase. They join Kyle Busch, who clinched a spot last week, as four of the 12 drivers who will be in the Cup series’ postseason. The Chase field will be set Sept. 10 at Richmond.

“Wow—the night race at Bristol!” Keselowski exclaimed after exiting his car 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.

“A team that just starts to click and believe in each other,” Keselowski said in explaining his recent success. “I believed in (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) since we started this year, and we’ve just made good adjustments to our cars over the last few months. We made good adjustments to our car during the race today and found ourselves in victory lane. I can’t believe it—I just can’t.”

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.

Keselowski was a fixture in the top five all night long, but he didn’t make his winning move until late in the race.

After a caution for Mark Martin’s backstretch crash on Lap 361, Gordon, who led a race-high 206 laps, passed Kenseth moments after a restart on Lap 369. Seven laps later, Keselowski passed Kenseth for the second position while Gordon opened a lead of more than one second.

But a caution for debris on Lap 413 allowed all lead-lap cars to pit. Truex and Newman took two tires and restarted first and third, respectively. But Keselowski beat Kenseth and Gordon out of the pits to start alongside Truex. Keselowski got a huge jump on the restart on Lap 421, passed Truex for the lead and pulled away for the victory.

Notes: 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.

Results

FIN CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 47/1 500 Running
2 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 43/1 500 Running
3 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 43/2 500 Running
4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 41/1 500 Running
5 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Realtree Outfitters 40/1 500 Running
6 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal 39/1 500 Running
7 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 37/0 500 Running
8 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Realtree Outfitters 37/1 500 Running
9 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac Dental 35/0 500 Running
10 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 34/0 500 Running
11 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 33/0 500 Running
12 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Best Buy 32/0 500 Running
13 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 32/1 500 Running
14 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Wrigley's Doublemint 31/1 500 Running
15 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 29/0 500 Running
16 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / Bristol 50th Anniversary / National Guard 28/0 500 Running
17 22 Kurt Busch Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 27/0 500 Running
18 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 26/0 500 Running
19 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 25/0 500 Running
20 6 David Ragan Ford UPS "We Love Logistics" 24/0 500 Running
21 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 23/0 500 Running
22 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Realtree / Bad Boy Buggies 22/0 500 Running
23 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 21/0 500 Running
24 34 David Gilliland Ford Thanks Bristol Fans 20/0 498 Running
25 71 Andy Lally * Ford Interstate Moving Services 19/0 498 Running
26 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Hamburger Helper 18/0 498 Running
27 195 David Starr Ford AdvoCare 0 497 Running
28 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Office Depot 16/0 497 Running
29 51 Mike Bliss Chevrolet Phoenix Construction / Thank A Teacher Today-Security Benefit 0 497 Running
30 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Sylvania / Menards 14/0 496 Running
31 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 13/0 496 Running
32 30 David Stremme Chevrolet EchoStor Technologies / Inception Motorsports 12/0 494 Running
33 32 Terry Labonte Ford C&J Energy 11/0 494 Running
34 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Bush's Baked Beans 10/0 471 In Pit
35 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral 9/0 457 Out of Race
36 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Freedom Ride Dream Machine 8/0 430 Running
37 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 0 371 Running
38 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Farmers Insurance / GoDaddy.com 6/0 363 In Pit
39 66 Michael McDowell Toyota HP Racing LLC 5/0 49 Out of Race
40 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AMFMEnergy.com / Pellet & Wood Stoves 0 42 In Pit
41 60 Mike Skinner Toyota Big Red 0 28 In Pit
42 46 Scott Speed Ford RetakeOurGov.com 0 28 In Pit
43 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Speed Energy 1/0 10 In Pit

* Denotes Rookie

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