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Keselowski holds off Kenseth in Bristol

by Pete McCole
Sunday, March 18, 2012

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Brad Keselowski
Getty Images for NASCAR

Brad Keselowski scored his first win of the season with a dominating performance on Sunday, holding off Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth for the victory in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Keselowski led a race-high 232 laps in the no. 2 Miller Light Dodge Charger including the last 111, spending all of them with a mirror full of Kenseth’s Ford Taurus trying to run him down.

Kenseth got one last shot at Keselowski on the final restart with 17 to go, but Keselowski held onto the lead on the high side and cleared Kenseth, pulling away to a half-straightaway lead on route to his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory and his second consecutive at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning the night-time tilt back in August of last year.

In keeping with his reputation as the new king of social media in NASCAR, Keselowski posted a picture on his Twitter feed while standing in victory lane.

“What can I say?  I love Bristol and Bristol loves me,” said Keselowski. “It's a great track that really demands a hundred percent out of a driver and out of a team.  Today my team certainly delivered.  You could probably argue whether or not I did, but it was good.

“Had a little bit of damage early on in the race, got it fixed.  Nobody panicked.  It's tough racing that requires so much discipline mixed in with some aggression obviously.  My guys, they made it happen today.”

But it was on that same Twitter page that Keselowski got wind of controversy surrounding a non-call by NASCAR on whether Kenseth beat Keselowski to the start/finish during a mid-race restart.

“I knew it was close,” said Keselowski of the restart. “I hate to be on NASCAR's side that he beat you to the start/finish line.  It's very subjective.  I think when things are as subjective as that is, a 'no' call is a right call.”

Martin Truex, Jr, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers – making his first start of the season – rounded out the top five giving Michael Waltrip Racing a three-position sweep.

Keselowski’s day almost ended before it began, when he narrowly avoided a seven-car pile-up on lap 25 that eliminated many of the early favorites, including Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne, who had one of the fastest cars in Sunday’s field.

For more than half the race, Kenseth and Keselowski played “follow the leader”, running 1-2 and trading the lead between them before Keselowski finally got underneath Kenseth for the final time on lap 390.

When the fifth and final caution flag fell on lap 479, Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to stay out rather than come to pit road for fresh tires. Keselowski then chose the outside line for the restart, putting him in perfect position.

On the restart, the two cars pulled even until Keselowski nosed ahead and cleared Kenseth by the time they came back to the start/finish line, which proved to be the pass for the win.

“I was not very comfortable that we were going to be able to win,” said Keselowski. “I didn't feel bad about it, but I was 50/50 that I was going to be able to pull off a win with (Kenseth) behind me with a very, very long run to finish the race.

“I knew that when the caution came out, as long as I could beat him on the first lap, that I had a good enough car, and I felt like I was a good enough driver to drive away.”

Kenseth, who notched his second top-five finish of the season following his win in the Daytona 500, believed Keselowski decision to restart on the outside was the move that clinched the race.

“He should have started on the bottom,” said Kenseth. “Unfortunately he didn't. I couldn't run on the bottom.

“You try to run whatever line you think your car is best in but certainly we took off on that second to last restart with new tires and I didn’t want Brad (Keselowski) to get outside of me. He was real good around the bottom and everybody is pretty good around the middle and the top. I wasn’t good at all in the bottom, especially in one and two. I didn’t have enough traction to get off the corners.”

For his part, Kenseth denied jumping the restart on lap 364, suggesting it might have been a bit of gamesmanship on the part of Keselowski.

“I didn't floor it till I got to the start/finish line,” said Kenseth. “I don't know if he was trying to let me beat him on purpose. I was half throttle for five car lengths. It was way past that line and we still weren't wide open. 

“I think he was just playing a little game, trying to get me out there so I had to brake check.  I just watched him and tried to get to the line barely behind him.”

Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard finished out the top ten finishers.

Greg Biffle continues to lead the Sprint Cup Series points standings by nine Kevin Harvick. Kenseth, Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 5 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 48/2 500 Running
2 21 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Best Buy 43/1 500 Running
3 15 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 41/0 500 Running
4 16 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 40/0 500 Running
5 25 55 Brian Vickers Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 40/1 500 Running
6 33 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet BB&T 38/0 500 Running
7 17 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 37/0 500 Running
8 30 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 36/0 500 Running
9 22 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 35/0 500 Running
10 11 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Moen / Menards 34/0 500 Running
11 14 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 33/0 500 Running
12 3 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans 32/0 500 Running
13 1 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M / 811 32/1 500 Running
14 23 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 30/0 500 Running
15 18 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew 30/1 500 Running
16 9 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 28/0 498 Running
17 2 22 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 28/1 498 Running
18 27 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 26/0 498 Running
19 7 43 Aric Almirola Ford Charter Comm. 25/0 498 Running
20 20 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 24/0 498 Running
21 19 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet Tradebank 23/0 497 Running
22 32 33 Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet South Point Hotel & Casino 22/0 496 Running
23 31 34 David Ragan Ford Front Row Motorsports 21/0 496 Running
24 6 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / CSX "Play it Safe" 20/0 496 Running
25 24 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 19/0 496 Running
26 26 38 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 18/0 496 Running
27 34 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 17/0 496 Running
28 36 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Clorox / Scott Products 16/0 495 Running
29 29 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 15/0 495 Running
30 40 249 J.J. Yeley Toyota JPO Absorbents 14/0 493 Running
31 39 98 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love "Let it start with me" 13/0 492 Running
32 13 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Wrigley 12/0 423 Running
33 42 32 Ken Schrader Ford TMone "We Drive Sales" 11/0 420 Running
34 35 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet SealWrap / Widow Wax 10/0 417 Running
35 4 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 10/1 395 Running
36 12 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Mac Tools 8/0 389 Running
37 10 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 7/0 366 Running
38 28 30 David Stremme Toyota Food Country USA / Inception Motorsports 6/0 334 Accident
39 8 99 Carl Edwards Ford Cheez-It 5/0 245 Running
40 41 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AMFMEnergy.com / Pellet & Wood Stoves 0 57 Brakes
41 43 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 3/0 26 Vibration
42 38 74 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Turn One Racing / Carnegie Hotel 0 17 Vibration
43 37 26 Josh Wise * Ford Morristown Driver's Service 1/0 16 Spindle

* Denotes Rookie

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