Keselowski dominates Quaker State 400 for his 2nd Cup win at Kentucky Speedway

awincze@herald-leader.comJune 27, 2014 

SPARTA — Brad Keselowski had already done this one night earlier, leading the most laps over the Kentucky Speedway oval, clearly at the helm of the best car on the track.

Circumstance had knocked victory out of his hands 24 hours prior with 50 laps to go. And with 48 turns of the tri-oval remaining in Saturday's Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Keselowski found himself again having to fight for what had been his all night.

The outcome this time would not be futile. After a penalty for speeding on pit road cost Keselowski a win in the Nationwide race he dominated Friday evening, the former Cup series champion would not be denied his place in Victory Lane in Saturday's 267-lap test, passing Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go to become the first two-time winner of the race in its four-year history.

The leaderboard was lit up with Keselowski's No. 2 practically all evening as he marched toward what is now his second victory of 2014, having previously won at Las Vegas in March.

Starting on the pole after a track-record-setting qualifying run, Keselowski led 199 of 267 laps but restarted sixth with 48 laps to go after a handful of drivers — Busch included — stayed out during pit stops that took place after Aric Almirola hit the wall on Lap 214.

Back in traffic on a track where passing is no small feat, Keselowski worked his way up to third by Lap 222 and methodically closed in on Busch before sailing by him on the inside and then drawing off as he had all night, unchallenged in the final laps.

"What a really fast car," said Keselowski, who won the 2012 Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway en route to winning the championship that year. "Things just kind of came together for us, really across the weekend from qualifying to race. It looked like it was going to come unraveled there at the end with that yellow coming in the middle of the sequence, which was really scary.

"I didn't really think I'd be able to pass (Busch), I knew it would be a dogfight and we got there with a fast car. We got the perfect run on him there in traffic and next thing we knew we were there. It feels really good to get that second win."

Busch, who won the Truck Series race Thursday night and was third in Friday's Nationwide race, held for second after starting 18th on the night. Ryan Newman was third with Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounding out the top five.

That a Penske car was going to end up covered in confetti seemed certain from the drop of the green flap. Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano combined to lead 236 laps and were together running in the top two for all but 61 of the first 196 laps.

Keselowski's car was brilliant in both clean air and working the inside groove when he had to pass rivals. The only real trouble came once he reached Victory Lane. He sliced his right hand on a champagne bottle, requiring a trip to the infield care center for four stitches.

"We should have stuck to beer," Keselowski said coming out of the care center. "It's no big deal. I'm just glad we won. It's a lot better story when you win and get hurt."

For all of Keselowski's prowess Saturday, it looked as though the wrong side of luck was going to catch him as Busch was one of the drivers who had already come down pit road just as the caution flew in the air because of Almirola's spin.

Being able to stay out when the field restarted allowed Busch to open up by a couple seconds on the front end. When he needed it most to hold off the best car on the day, the handling on his M&Ms Camry gave it up.

"I felt like our car was way better on the long run but that last run I just got way too loose," Busch said. "I slipped the right rear getting into the corner ... then it was the whole corner.

"About the only one perfect was probably the No. 2. They were the class of the field here this weekend."

Flesh wounds aside, Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe are relishing the fact that the No. 2 squad is starting to act and run much like it did when it during its reign in 2012.

After going through a nine-race stretch when it posted just two top-10 outings, the Miller Lite team has now finished in the top five in four of the last five starts.

"I don't want to win one championship and that be it for my career," Keselowski said. "I'm not going to be happy with that."

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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