Brad Keselowski claims Kentucky win for third victory of season

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Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent

Keselowski becomes first three-time winner in 2012.

Despite temporarily going into fuel conservation mode during the final green flag run of the Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, Keselowski held off a charging No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Kasey Kahne in the closing laps to drive the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge to victory lane for the third time in 2012.

"What a weekend, man," Keselowski said in Victory Lane.

Hard work equals results, and this team works hard.

Brad Keselowski

Kahne overcame an unscheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 52 for a loose wheel to work his way back toward the front for a runner-up finish. Denny Hamlin was third in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

"We had a really good Quaker State Chevrolet -- had to pass a lot of cars," Kahne said.

The No. 2 car Keselowski drove into victory lane was a backup car, as he wrecked his primary on the first lap of practice on Friday.

"This is my Martinsville car from the Chase last year. Hard work equals results, and this team works hard," Keselowski said of the team effort put into getting the backup car race ready.

Jimmie Johnson started his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the pole, but lost the lead to Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the early laps. By lap 15, Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had also gotten by Johnson to give JGR the top-two spots in the running order.

The Joe Gibbs Racing one-two was short-lived though, as Keselowski got by them both to take the lead on lap 35.

Keselowski lost positions on pit road during a caution that came out on lap 41. Busch and Johnson got off pit road first and second to restart the race on the front row. A few laps later, Kahne had to return to pit road under green, because of a loose wheel from his yellow-flag pit stop.

Busch held on to the lead until he pitted during a cycle of green-flag stops on lap 95. When the cycle completed, though, Busch was back up front, with Keselowski and Johnson running second and third.

Hamlin took the top spot from his teammate on a restart following a lap 125 caution. Soon thereafter, Busch gave up second to Johnson.

A few laps later, Busch reported to his crew over the radio that he had broken a shock and fell more than 2 mph off the race pace.

Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

The field began cycling through another round of green-flag pit stops on lap 202. Just before making his stop, Keselowski passed Hamlin for the lead. The No. 2 car then ran out of gas heading toward pit road.

"We knew we were close, but we had to stretch it there to make the last (fuel) window," No. 2 crew chief Paul Wolfe said.

The yellow flag waved for a blown engine in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman on lap 210 just as everyone had cycled through what was for most, the final stops of the race. Several drivers headed down pit road to top off with fuel for safe measure.

Keselowski restarted with the lead and Hamlin in second. Hamlin lost several position on the restart but reclaimed his spot in second on lap 223.

Keselowski and Hamlin ran first and second for most of the remaining laps, but Kahne's No. 5 car was coming. With eight laps to go, he moved into the third spot and passed Hamlin for second with four to go.

"We had to adjust on our car a little bit, but not as much as expected," Kahne said.

Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports teammates -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet and Johnson finished fourth through sixth, giving team owner Rick Hendrick four of the top-six spots in the finishing order.

"I was pretty loose," Earnhardt said. "I wasn't having a lot of fun that last 30 laps."

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Race report
Tags dodge, featured, hamlin, kahne, keselowski, penske, vincent