Keselowski secures a spot in the Chase with victory.
As the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. sputtered on fumes on the last lap of the Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Brad Keselowski drove by in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford to claim the win and all but guarantee himself a spot in this year's 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship post-season.
Locked in the Chase early, so I don't have to hear that crap all year about not making the Chase," Keselowski said.
While his fuel mileage gamble didn't translate into a win, Earnhardt was able to get his car to the finish for runner-up honors.
"It's tough losing like that," Earnhardt said. "That thing started sputtering off turn two."
The No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Paul Menard finished third, pole sitter Joey Logano finished fourth in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, and the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards, on the same fuel-saving strategy as Earnhardt, rounded out the top-five.
The field cycled through green-flag stops, beginning with 63 laps remaining in the 267-lap race. Earnhardt and Edwards were among the drivers who pitted late in the cycle, hoping to stretch the fuel they got during that stop to go the remainder of the distance.
The yellow flag waved for the fourth and final time in the race just a few laps later, and most of the field pitted for a splash of fuel.
Earnhardt and Edwards, though, stayed out, sticking with their fuel conservation strategy.
With the idea of saving fuel out the window, Earnhardt's car sputtered on the final lap, allowing Keselowski to get by and drive on to the win. Keselowski was on somewhat of a different pit strategy, himself, for much of the race. He stayed out during the first caution of the race on lap 17 to inherit the lead. Later, he fell out of the top-10 during another caution as several drivers took only two new tires, while he stayed on pit road long enough for four.
By lap 120, Keselowski worked his way up to fourth. As Keselowski continued to try to race his way up through the top-five, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick, the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch showed the way up front.
The yellow flag waved again on lap 155. Again, Keselowski opted to stay out while everyone else pitted, regaining the lead. Harvick moved up to second when the race restarted, but fell off the pace with 74 laps to go. He wound up spending time in the garage because of an issue with a left-front wheel.
"It looks like the left-front hub is locked up," Harvick said. "Just got to keep doing what we're doing and things will work out fine."
A few laps after Harvick's problems, Keselowski pitted under green after staying out during the previous caution. But a few laps later, everyone else also pitted under green, cycling Keselowski back into the lead.
"Heck of a call throughout the race to get us out front," Keselowski said.
Keselowsi then built up a cushion of nearly 5.75 seconds, only to see the field bunched up by the fourth and final caution of the race with 47 to go. While he and others pitted for fuel, Earnhardt stayed out, hoping the fule he had would carry him to the checkered flag.
"We weren't going to run first or second without staying out," Earnhardt said.
Johnson finished sixth, the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman was seventh, the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne eighth, the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon ninth, and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-10.