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Keselowski takes another title in Kentucky

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By DAVE TAYLOR
Landmark Community News Service

Penske Racing driver Brad Keselowski wrapped up a competitive three-race weekend at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with his second victory in three years, leading 199 of the 267 laps of Saturday’s Quaker State 400 en route to the win. Keselowski placed fifth in Thursday’s UNOH 225 Truck race behind winner Kyle Busch and second in Friday’s Natiowide race won by Kevin Harvick.
In the weekend aftermath it was Keselowski who found himself wrapped up in the infield infirmary after Saturday’s Victory Lane celebration turned bloody.
“We were playing around with some champagne and I told my good friend I should have stuck with beer,” Keselowski joked with the press corps after receiving four stitches. “We had too much fun with champagne and one of the bottles broke and I cut my hand open. It’s no big deal. It’s all fixed now, so we’re good. I’m just glad we won. It’s a lot better story when you win and get hurt.”
The winner’s post-race press conference was delayed for nearly an hour because of the mishap. When Keselowski finally arrived at the media center he was wearing a new fire suit and sporting a white bandage on his hand.
Saturday’s victory in the Quaker State 400 was Keselowski’s second of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and 12th of his career. On Friday, Keselowski obliterated the speedway’s Sprint Cup qualifying record by better than five miles per hour with a lap around the 1.5-mile track at 188.791 miles per hour.
Keselowski in the Miller Lite Ford and Penske teammate Joey Logano in the Shell Pennzoil Ford started side by side on the front row. The eventual winner set the tone of the race early charging to the front and staying there until lap 78. After only 25 laps, Keselowski had opened a 4.191-second advantage over Logano.
The race went to caution on lap 29 when Denny Hamlin cut down a tire and made contact with the wall in turn three. The first lead change of the night came during the second caution after Kyle Larson cut down a tire and made contact with the wall in turn one on the leader’s 78th lap. The leaders pitted and Logano emerged from the pits ahead of Keselowski.
The race went green again on lap 85 with Logano in front. It took only two laps before Keselowski regained the lead with an inside lane pass on the main straightaway. The teammates traded leads from there with nobody else to challenge them until Aric Almirola, driving for Richard Petty, hit the wall on Lap 213.
The resulting caution sent the leaders down pit road for service. The scramble out of the pits produced the race’s first and only non-Penske leader in Kyle Busch, whose No. 18 M&M Toyota took over on Lap 217 and led the restart with Newman second. Keselowski, restarting from sixth position, said he knew “it was going to be a dogfight to get back to Kyle and then race him. We got there with a really fast car and I hit the perfect run on him with traffic. Next thing I knew, we were there.”
Busch’s lead of more than two seconds vanished rapidly as he battled a loose car. He thought his lead was large enough in the closing laps to hold off Keselowski.
“I got so loose there at the end. I couldn’t hold on,” Busch said. “I couldn’t keep it where I wanted it, sliding all over the place and just trying not to wreck basically. About the only one perfect was probably the 2 (Keselowski), so they’ve got something figured out. We just had to come home second tonight to the best car.”
Keselowski regained the lead on lap 248 and never looked back. Busch was second, followed by Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who rallied from a 29th-place start. Series points leader Jeff Gordon finished sixth followed by Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne. A dropped cylinder caused Joey Logano to fade to a ninth-place finish after leading 37 laps. Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top 10.
Weather conditions and a 40 percent threat of rain may have kept some fans away as the grandstands appeared only half full as the race got under way. A heavy rain had began to fall at the speedway at 3:38 p.m., but eventually the skies cleared allowing the track to be dried in time for the evening start. Last year’s event was postponed one day by rain.
Some pre-race “weepers”—areas of water seeping up through cracks on the track surface—were detected in certain areas. Some drivers radioed of their concerns with the wet spots during the race.
Gordon told his team that he was “dodging waterfalls” on the track.
Kentucky’s notoriously bumpy track surface was a topic of post-race discussions.
“If you fix the start-finish line, just pave the straightaway there where it’s the roughest, I think we’d all be very grateful,” Busch said. “The corners aren’t terrible, but there was a lot of seepage out there. If we could fix the water issues and the start-finish line, I’d be happy.”
“This place is a bit of a handful for me,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t think I’ve got it figured out just yet.”
Newman said he struggled “everywhere” on the track. “I really didn’t think we were going to be able to race there for a minute with the rain. Nevertheless, it was a fun effort.”
Gordon’s sixth place finish helped him increase his series points lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Earnhardt. Keselowski’s win helped him move up to fourth place in series points.
Gordon had praise for Roger Penske’s teams following the race.
“I take back what I said about the No. 2 and the No. 22. I said they hadn’t been backing up their speed from the qualifying, but they seemed to find it this weekend. Wow, they were fast!”
“It was just one of those races where the whole race, you know you’ve really got a fast car,” Keselowski said. “Our car was awesome.”

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SATURDAY’S RESULTS
Lap length: 1.5 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267 laps, 48 points.
2. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267, 43.
3. (7) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267, 41.
4. (14) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267, 40.
5. (29) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 267, 39.
6. (3) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 267, 38.
7. (5) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 267, 37.
8. (20) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 267, 36.
9. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 267, 36.
10. (25) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267, 34.
11. (13) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 267, 33.
12. (9) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267, 32.
13. (27) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 267, 31.
14. (24) Greg Biffle, Ford, 267, 30.
15. (12) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 267, 29.
16. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267, 28.
17. (23) Carl Edwards, Ford, 267, 27.
18. (32) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 267, 26.
19. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 267, 25.
20. (26) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 267, 24.
21. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 267, 23.
22. (15) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 266, 22.
23. (11) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 266, 21.
24. (28) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 266, 20.
25. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 266, 19.
26. (17) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 266, 18.
27. (31) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 265, 17.
28. (30) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 264, 16.
29. (34) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 263, 15.
30. (41) David Gilliland, Ford, 263, 14.
31. (36) David Ragan, Ford, 262, 13.
32. (37) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 262, 0.
33. (39) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 261, 11.
34. (35) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 259, 10.
35. (38) David Stremme, Chevrolet, 257, 9.
36. (33) Alex Bowman, Toyota, 255, 8.
37. (8) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 250, 7.
38. (40) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 239, 0.
39. (22) Aric Almirola, Ford, accident, 175, 5.
40. (6) Kyle Larson, Chevy, accident, 75, 66.1, 4.
41. (42) Mike Bliss, Toyota, transmission, 30, 0.
42. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, accident, 27, 2.

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Race Statistics
Average Speed of Race Winner: 139.723 mph.
Time of Race: 2 hours, 51 minutes, 59 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 1.014 seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 34 laps.
Lead Changes: 12 among 3 drivers.
Lap Leaders: B.Keselowski 1-78; J.Logano 79-83; B.Keselowski 84; J.Logano 85-86; B.Keselowski 87-127; J.Logano 128-147; B.Keselowski 148-155; J.Logano 156-162; B.Keselowski 163-180; J.Logano 181-183; B.Keselowski 184-216; Ky.Busch 217-247; B.Keselowski 248-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 7 times for 199 laps; J.Logano, 5 times for 37 laps; Ky.Busch, 1 time for 31 laps.
Wins: J.Johnson, 3; D.Earnhardt Jr., 2; C.Edwards, 2; K.Harvick, 2; Bra.Keselowski, 2; J.Logano, 2; Ku.Busch, 1; Ky.Busch, 1; J.Gordon, 1; D.Hamlin, 1.
Top 12 in Points: 1. J.Gordon, 618; 2. J.Johnson, 594; 3. D.Earnhardt Jr., 594; 4. Bra.Keselowski, 560; 5. M.Kenseth, 555; 6. C.Edwards, 536; 7. J.Logano, 519; 8. R.Newman, 514; 9. K.Harvick, 509; 10. Ky.Busch, 508; 11. P.Menard, 488; 12. K.Larson, 474.
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