Keselowski Back in Victory Lane
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on October 12, 2013 | 11:10 P.M. EST
Keselowski celebrates his 10th career victory and first at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski scored his first win of the season in Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Keselowski took advantage of a late race debris caution flag that jumbled up the field and took the lead on lap 322 to go on to the victory after battling with Kasey Kahne for the top spot.
The defending Sprint Cup Series champion notched his 10th career victory and first at Charlotte.
The win was especially sweet for Keselowski after an early race pit stop miscue when he left his stall with a jack still under his car.
"It was just a never-give-up night,” Keselowski said. “We had a lot of struggles tonight but we kept working our way forward.
"I love hard racing, and there are a handful of guys you can't race hard with in this deal because they freak out, Kasey's not one of them. He's an excellent driver and he ran me hard but he ran me clean and that's great racing.”
Kahne took two tires when the final caution flew and led the charge off pit road. But he wasn’t able to hold off Keselowski.
"I tried everything to keep him behind me," Kahne said. "He cleared me once and I got back by him, we just battled really hard and he did a really good job, he had a fast car at the end."
Kahne’s crew chief Kenny Francis was surprised more drivers didn’t opt for track position and make a two tire stop.
“We had a good car,” said Francis. “I figured more people would take two. Just bad luck, I guess. Surprised that some of the guys that were farther back didn’t take two, put a little bit of a buffer between the cars with four (tires) and the cars with two. I was really surprised that quite a few more didn’t take two. We took two early and it seemed fine.”
Jimmie Johnson appeared to be well on his way to the win until the caution for debris waved with 27 laps to go. Not only did Johnson lose the top spot during his four-tire stop, he slid back in the field when the green flag reappeared as he raced with teammate Kahne.
"Evidently I was too close to him and in his way, and my car washed up a little bit," Johnson said, who was able to hold on for fourth. "A couple of guys were able to get inside of me. I just lost track position at that point, which was unfortunate. Once I got rolling again I was fine, but I lost too much at that point.”
Matt Kenseth, who battled an ill-handling racecar most of the night, was able to finish third.
"I'm happy we finished third," said Kenseth. "I was so far behind because I qualified so poorly and needed all night to get back up there. Then at the very end they gave me a shot to win and I'm slightly disappointed that I didn't take advantage of that opportunity."
The finishes allowed Kenseth to increase his lead to four points over Johnson in the Chase standings.
Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
Kevin Harvick finished sixth and stayed third in the standings but fell 29 behind Kenseth.
“Yeah, we got a decent finish, but our car was terrible all night,” said Harvick. “I just have to thank all my Jimmy John’s guys for working hard and keeping the car on the lead lap. Then just the restart went our way there at the end and we were able to get a decent finish out of it. We survived.”
Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards completed the first 10 finishers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday afternoon for the Camping World RV Sales 500.