It was a wild race with cautions, crashes and pit stops before the skies opened up and the dreaded red flag. In the end there was no hope and the NACAR Nationwide Series race ended early.
Brad Keselowski celebrated his second-career NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Kentucky Speedway and his second series win of the season under soggy conditions after the Feed the Children 300 was shortened by 30 laps Friday night because of rain.
"You know, I didn't want it to end this way, but we had a great car and we were able to drive to the front," Keselowski said.
As drivers and crews waited out the rain during a red flag, Keselowski said that, despite being the race leader, he wanted the race to get restarted and earn his win. The race didn't restart, though, and the event that was scheduled for 200 laps was abbreviated by rain to 170.
Elliott Sadler finished second in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Matt Crafton drove the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to a third-place finish in his Nationwide Series debut. He's slated to be behind the wheel of the No. 33 for two more races this year.
The two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars in the race, Keselowski and Kyle Busch in the NO. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, combined to dominate the race. Busch led 74, mostly during the first half of the race, and Keselowski led 59 laps, mostly after lap 100.
"This is the type of car you get once a year, if you're lucky," Keselowski said. "Driving this car, I feel like Jimmie Johnson; this is a rocket."
Busch took the lead from pole sitter Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, on lap 19 and led the way until most of the field cycled through green-flag pit stops, beginning on lap 50. The first caution of the race came out a few laps later, leaving five cars on the track that hadn't yet pitted.
Busch was among those who had stopped, but because of his large lead before the cycle, managed to be the only one among those who had pitted who was still on the lead lap when the yellow flag waved. Busch stayed out during the caution to move back into the lead, while those who pitted under green took the wave around to get back on the lead lap.
Crafton, who didn't pit under green, got off pit road first during the caution to restart the race second to Busch. He maintained the position until Keselowski moved toward the front from his 19th starting spot to claim second in the running order just past lap 70. Keselowski then set his sights on Busch and the lead, claiming the top spot for the first time on lap 94.
Busch regained the lead a lap later, but Keselowski staked a more permanent stake on the front position on lap 100.
Keselowski continued to lead, as Sadler moved into second on a restart that followed a caution on lap 131. Sadler lost the runner-up spot to Dillon on the next restart, though, just a few laps later.
Pit strategies began to vary when the fourth caution of the race came out on lap 138. Crafton and Sadler got off pit road first and second, with Crafton taking fuel only and Sadler taking only two tires. While several other drivers also opted for only two tires, both Keselowski and Busch took four. As a result, Keselowski restarted eighth, and Busch was back in 13th for the restart and overshooting his pit stall.
Sadler took the lead on the restart, and Keselowski made his way back toward the front to claim second on lap 150. Just a few laps later, Keselowski passed Sadler to retake the lead. Keselowski and Sadler then maintained their positions until the race was firs yellow-flagged for rain on lap 163 and then red-flagged and ultimately called on lap 170.
The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Brian Vickers finished fourth, and Busch rounded out the top-five.
The Kentucky race was the qualifier for the annual four-race Dash 4 Cash program, set to kick off next Friday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Sadler, Vickers, Dillon, and the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of Kyle Larson qualified to compete for the first $100,000 bonus to be awarded at Daytona by being the four highest-finishing championship-eligible drivers at Kentucky. Dillon finished the race sixth, and Larson was seventh.
Although he finished just inside the top-10 in the ninth spot, Friday's race at Kentucky was a positive for Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford. He moved to within eight points of series championship leader Regan Smith. Smith finished 30th in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet after spending several laps in the garage for repair of a mechanical issue.