Gambling on fuel mileage late in the race, Brad Keselowski drove his No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge on to the win in the History 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. It was his first series win of the season.
"There's a strategy," Keselowski said in victory lane, being careful not to reveal his fuel saving secret, instead giving credit to engine builders at Penske Racing.
Denny didn't let me save any. He was racing me hard.
Denny Hamlin finished second in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Kyle Busch was third in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.
"This is a very good improvement," Busch said of his first-year team. "We're just the little guys that can."
Joey Logano started on the pole in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but Kevin Harvick drove his No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to the front on a restart following the second caution of the race that came out on lap 14.
Harvick went on to dominate the race early, driving out to a lead of almost five seconds by lap 50 of the 200-lap race. Harvick maintained the front position until he lost the lead to the No. 38 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne on a restart following a caution that came on lap 53.
Harvick reassumed the lead on lap 68, though, and began to pull away from the rest of the field again.
Logano got back up front during a caution that came out on lap 127 by stopping for fuel only. Harvick was shuffled back to sixth for the restart after taking on four tires, while several other drivers opted to take only two.
Logano, on two new tires, drove out to the lead on the restart. Kahne got by Logano for the top spot on lap 132, but his lead was short lived, losing it to Keselowski a couple of laps later.
The yellow flag waved again on lap 138, but Keselowski stayed on the race track after faking a trip down pit road. Kahne stayed out behind him as the rest of the front runners opted to pit. Keselowski didn't pit the remainder of the race.
"Denny didn't let me save any," Keselowski said of Hamlin challenging him for the win in the final laps. "He was racing me hard."
Busch passed Kahne with 43 laps to go to move into second. A few laps later, Kahne lost another position, giving up the third spot to Hamlin. Kahne eventually dropped out of the top-10. Hamlin moved into the second position with 10 laps to go, but he was unable to catch Keselowski in the final laps.
"We fought handling, fought everything today," Hamlin said. "I used my stuff up so much trying to get up through the field."
Harvick finished fourth, and Elliott Sadler finished fifth in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. He gained 21 points on series leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driving of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Stenhouse finished 26th after spending more than 20 laps in the garage while his team replaced a broken driveshaft early in the race.
"We picked up some points today with a top-five finish," Sadler said.