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Brad Keselowski’s back-up plan a winner

At Kentucky Speedway, Penske driver earns his third victory of season, in a backup ride, to all but assure himself a spot in title Chase

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Saturday, Jun. 30, 2012

Brad Keselowski backed right into this win.

Keselowski, using a backup car after wrecking his primary car in the opening minutes of Friday’s first practice session, held off Kasey Kahne to win Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

“What a weekend, man. It started off, we hit the wall on Lap 1 in practice and brought out our backup,” said Keselowski, 28. “This is my Martinsville car from the Chase last year. This ain’t the newest car we got, but it sure runs.

“I’m real proud of my team. I had a fast race car. We fought back from adversity all weekend in 100-degree temperatures. We got this car out and got it ready for practice. It was a lot of hard work. And that’s what got us here in Victory Lane.”

The win is Keselowski’s third Sprint Cup Series victory of the season and for all intents and purposes secures him a spot in this year’s championship Chase, at least as a wild card entry.

“Three wins feels pretty dang good,” Keselowski said, when asked if he thought he was in. “There’s never any guarantees. I’m trying to look forward. We want to climb up the ladder and not worry about the wild card. It was a (heck) of a day today.”

Denny Hamlin finished third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth and Jeff Gordon was fifth. Jimmie Johnson finished sixth as all four Hendrick Motorsports cars finished in the top six.

Kyle Busch, last year’s race winner, got an early jump on the competition, leading 116 of the first 129 laps.

Three-time series champion Tony Stewart experienced problems early in the race and was taken out of contention when he had to go to the garage for repairs to his car’s electrical system.

Debris on the frontstretch brought out the second caution on Lap 125. All of the lead lap cars pitted for fuel and tires and Busch remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 130 followed by Hamlin, Keselowski, Johnson and A.J. Allmendinger.

Hamlin, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, quickly moved into the lead on the restart.

The engine in Dave Blaney’s No. 36 Chevrolet let go on Lap 149 to bring out the third caution of the race. All of the lead lap cars pitted with Hamlin remaining in the lead on the restart on Lap 155 followed by Johnson and Busch.

With 100 laps remaining in the race, Hamlin remained out front after having withstood several attempts by Johnson to pass for the lead.

After another fierce side-by-side battle, Johnson finally wrestled the lead away from Hamlin and took the lead for the first time on Lap 189.

Teams began a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 200.

During the green-flag stops, Ryan Newman blew his engine, spun in his oil and slammed the wall on Lap 210 to bring out the fourth caution of the race.

“Just something blew up. That was the bottom end of the motor,” Newman said. “It was going to be a decent night, maybe not a great night points wise. Points wise maybe a good night, but not a great night for a top five.”

All of the lead-lap cars stopped for fuel and several took tires. On the restart on Lap 220, Keselowski took over the race lead followed by Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Johnson.

With 30 laps remaining, Keselowski held a lead of more than three seconds over Hamlin.

Utter: 704-358-5113

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