Sunday, September 30, 2012

Brad Keselowski wins at Dover after a late fuel-saving run

Keselowski celebrates at Dover
Photo by Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts ad Scuffs   
Today’s AAA 400 featured long green runs, making it a nail-biting, fuel strategy race for both crews and drivers.

With nine laps to go, Kyle Busch was leading the AAA 400 with teammate Denny Hamlin running second. But when both Gibbs cars pitted for a splash-and-go, Brad Keselowski grabbed the lead and finished strong to take the checkered flag.

“Slow” and steady won the race for the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. After his final pit stop, Keselowski managed to save fuel for the last leg of the race, while maintaining enough speed to run in the top five. In fact, Keselowski ran in the top five most of the race, even after an extra-long pit stop caused by a jack issue.

Today’s victory is Keselowski’s fifth win this season and his first at Dover International Speedway. After winning two out of three Chase races, he leads the points standings over Jimmie Johnson by five points.

When asked how he won this race by driving slower to save fuel, Keselowski said:

Keselowski ready to climb from his car in Victory Lane
Photo by Beth Bence Reinke   
“It wasn’t easy. The Dodge team and Penske have done an incredible job with these engines with power and fuel balance to go faster. I ran up front all day. I may not have had the best car but hung around in that top five, just creeping around and when you do that, you put yourself in position for good thing to happen.”

Runner-up Jeff Gordon had a fast car and ran near the front all day. Today’s finish was his 14th top 10 this season and his 22nd top 10 in 40 races at the Monster Mile. Gordon is 10th in the points standings, 48 behind leader Keselowski.

Mark Martin started 25th but was an early mover, gaining 11 positions in the first 35 laps and running in the top 10 for the last three-quarters of the race. His third place finish marked Martin’s 32nd top 10 in 53 races at Dover.

Photo by Beth Bence Reinke
Caution report:
Lap 70: debris
Lap 180: debris
Lap 247: debris
Lap 310: debris from the No. 17 car
Lap 318: The No. 17 spins in Turn 4

Race notes:
1. Tony Stewart was unhappy with his car early on and was lapped on Lap 59. By Lap 170 he went a second lap down and finished 20th, three laps down.
2. After the first caution, which came out during green flag pit stops, seven of the Chasers were a lap down. At race end, only six cars were on the lead lap and four of them were Chasers.
3. Kasey Kahne had a fast car all day, but after pitting for a vibration, he returned a second time for a loose lugnut. After losing track position, Kahne finished 15th.
4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 12th, three laps down, in his second Sprint Cup start in the No. 6 Cargill.
5. Chasers Hamlin, Johnson, Keselowski, Gordon and Bowyer all received bonus points for leading at least one lap.
6. Matt Kenseth pitted when suspension parts broke on his No. 17 car. He returned to the track, spun, and brought out a caution. After repairs, he returned to the track but finished way back in 35th, likely ending his Chase hopes.
7. With 40 to go, the top three cars were all short on fuel – Kyle Busch, Johnson and Hamlin, but only Johnson managed to stretch it until the end.

Finishing order:
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Mark Martin
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Carl Edwards
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Kyle Busch
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Joey Logano
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Kevin Harvick
14. Bobby Labonte
15. Kasey Kahne
16. Greg Biffle
17. Regan Smith
18. Marcos Ambrose
19. Aric Almirola
20. Tony Stewart
21. Ryan Newman
22. Paul Menard
23. Kurt Busch
24. Jamie McMurray
25. Sam Hornish Jr.
26. Juan Pablo Montoya
27. Jeff Burton
28. Danica Patrick
29. Travis Kvapil
30. David Ragan
31. Casey Mears
32. David Gilliland
33. TJ Bell
34. JJ Yeley
35. Matt Kenseth
36. Landon Cassill
37. Josh Wise
38. Michael McDowell
39. Joe Nemechek
40. Scott Speed
41. Dave Blaney
42. Scott Riggs
43. Reed Sorenson

For Sprint Cup points standings, click here
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Beth Bence Reinke is a columnist, support editor & media rep for Skirts and Scuffs. She writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is also the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow her on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at bbreinke@skirtsandScuffs.com

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