Brad Keselowski won both the Nationwide and Cup races for Team Penske.
Brad Keselowski was virtually unstoppable in the Camping World RV Sales 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway as he raced the Redd’s Ford to victory in the 19th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Due to a late caution flag, the race went into overtime, which didn’t affect the outcome. The race ran 305 laps, four laps past its scheduled distance. For Keselowski, the win gave him a weekend sweep, having driven to victory Saturday in the Sta-Green 200 Nationwide Series race here on the 1.058-mile Loudon track. The Michigan driver became the first to record a sweep at New Hampshire. He led 138 of the 305 laps run today.
Ford took its fourth consecutive Sprint Cup victory of the season, doing so for the first time since 2001.
Said the winner, “The Redd’s Apple Ford Fusion was hauling. It is a privilege to have a car and a team that are clicking like this. It is every driver’s dream to have a car like this one. Every once in a while you get one of these cars and you are thankful. I can’t believe it to win both of these races. I thought we would be pretty good here at Loudon; we’ve been pretty good here last couple of years but couldn’t close it out. Today, we did it."
“I’m quiet and somber, and I’m just trying to soak all this in. When you get to victory lane, you don’t get a chance to soak it in. This was just such a phenomenal weekend; these don’t happen that often, so you have to enjoy them. Winning races at the Sprint Cup level are big deals and sweeping a weekend, too. It is all part of the hard work at Team Penske. I can drive the heck out of the car, but you have to have a good horse and we had that today.”
Added crew chief Paul Wolfe, “It was a tough (strategy) call for us. When you have cars like we had, your competition is going to do the opposite of what you do and that happened on the first stop. I didn’t know how that was going to unfold, but it did when Brad got back to the front. From that point on, it seemed to be easier to make decisions. We stuck with our plan, and it worked.”
Team owner Roger Penske was all aglow to see his team win again, stating, “I want to thank Brad and Paul for an outstanding weekend. I missed the Kentucky race and didn’t get a chance to see a dominant Ford Fusion. Ford wants us to win, and they want to give us what it takes to win. You couldn’t ask for a better weekend. Good calls Paul and we had the best driver with the best execution.”
Tire strategies were diverse throughout the race with teams taking on two tires to gain the advantage, only to succumb to Keselowski’s team that opted for four tires except on the last pit stop.
Regarding the tire strategies, Keselowski added, “I was worried about the guys that got four tires (toward end). At end, Kyle (Busch) had four (tires). He was going to give me all I had, but I only had two laps to hold him off. It was just a great race and hard-fought. Kyle made me earn it at the end.”
Kyle Busch came home in second place with his Interstate Batteries Toyota running short on fuel at the end.
Said Busch, “I thought we had a good car but late in the runs, I was burning up the front tires too much and those guys were able to get by me. Throughout the race, we weren’t able to make any adjustments that helped the car. Whatever we did our lap times were the same. The car was good to drive in first part of race and at the end, we were biding time and saving fuel, trying to make it to end. We probably should have pitted at the end but we already had that win, so you do stupid things when the opportunity presents itself. We stayed out and it worked out."
"We did run out at the start-finish (line),” admitted Busch. Talented rookie Kyle Larson put together another impressive shwoing, finishing third in the Target Chevrolet.
“It was a good day with some eventful parts to it with pit strategies. My crew chief (Chris Heroy) made some ballsy calls to get me in lead and allowed us to stay out front, which kind of surprised me. I was able to maintain track position from then on. We had a good top-eight or top-10 car, but everything kind of worked out for us on that last restart with me lining up sixth, which I thought was a good spot to be in. I got lucky when Jeff Gordon ran out of fuel, and it all worked out.”
Matt Kenseth placed fourth with Ryan Newman fifth. Rounding out top-10 finishers were Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon and Harvick ran out of fuel at the end of the day while running inside the top five.
In the championship standings, Gordon leads Earnhardt, Keselowski, Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Newman, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Bowyer. Eleven drivers have scored a win and the next five in points qualifying for the Chase as of now are Kenseth, Newman, Bowyer, Menard and Larson.
Johnson started the race from second but ended up 42nd after a pair of tire issues did him in during the opening laps. While frustrated, Johnson firmly stated that low tire pressure wasn’t the issue. “I’m not sure what caused it, and I am sure fingers will be pointed back at the team,” Johnson said on TV. “We have seen some issues with that particular tire in last few days, so we will try and dig into it. I promise one thing it was not low tire pressure.”
For Johnson’s team, it was their fifth tire issue of the season. This also marks the first time since July of 2007 that Johnson posted back-to-back DNF's. Another driver hit by bad luck was Logano, who got taken out by ageless wonder Morgan Shepherd while the former was running in the runner-up position. At the time, Shepherd was nearly 15 laps behind, running last of the cars still running. Shepherd finished 39th, which is his best result since September of 2004.
Seven caution flags slowed the race for 35 laps.
On the television side, Turner Sports closed out its 32-year NASCAR broadcasting run with its final production. Interestingly, 72-year old Shepherd was in the first and final telecast.
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