Brad Keselowski gets fuel mileage win at Kentucky
Brad Keselowski celebrates in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway after winning the Quaker State 400 on July 9, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
The Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night on the newly-repaved and reconfigured Kentucky Speedway in Sparta turned into a fuel-mileage contest that was won by Brad Keselowski. It was Keselowski’s third win in the six Cup races held at the Northern Kentucky track. It also was his second-straight win in 2016 and his fourth of the season, overall, after 18 races.
Carl Edwards finished second, Ryan Newman was third, and Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five.
Keselowski took the lead from Keven Harvick on lap 200 of the 267-lap race and led a total of 75 laps in the race before practically coasting to the checkered flag and getting an assist from a tow truck to get to victory lane.
As his fellow-competitors headed for pit road in the final 20 laps, Keselowski went into fuel-mileage mode. He slowed to the point of letting Matt Kenseth by for the race lead with six laps remaining, but right after taking the top spot, Kenseth headed for pit road, himself. New second-place runner, Edwards, was nine seconds back at the time, but with Keselowski off the pace, he was able to close in on the lead and possible win. With Edwards closing in, though, Keselowski picked up the pace just enough to keep Edwards in his rearview.
Keselowski was the only driver to pass Harvick for the lead on the race track. Harvick started on the pole after the starting grid was set by car owner points with the cancellation of qualifying on Friday. He led a total of 128 laps, the most of anybody, with most of those laps-led coming in the first half.
Harivick, though, lost track position during a cycle of green-flag stops just past the halfway point of the race, winding up third behind Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch on a restart after a lap 152 caution. He eventually got back up to second and then retook the lead on lap 177.
Truex got off pit road ahead of Harvick during the 11th yellow flag that came out on lap 194, but a pit road penalty put Truex back to 22nd for the restart and handed the lead back over to Harvick. After restarting outside the top-20, Truex managed to race his way up to the top-three, without the help of another caution, by the time cars started hitting pit road for splashes of fuel in the closing laps.
The race on the new Kentucky Speedway was treacherous, with the yellow flag waving a track record-tying 11 times, wiith all but one those cautions being for wrecks. The only exception was a competition caution on lap 26.
On-track incidents included an eight-car wreck that was set off by contact between Kyle Larson and Brian Scott. Other drivers involved included Chris Buescher, Regan Smith, A.J. Allmendinger, Cole Whitt, Ty Dillon and Danica Patrick.
“The 11 (Denny Hamlin) was pretty tight on my door, and I had the 42 (Larson) up my bumper, there, on that restart, and these cars a pretty difficult to drive when you’re in that type of situation,” Scott said. “I was expecting it, and when it happened. I thought I had it saved. I was just trying to gather it back up and lose the spots we were gonna lose but go on, and then, some cars barreled in pretty fast from behind and caused a pile-up.”
Allmendinger also was involved in an incident on lap 172. Afterward, Allmendinger emerged from the track’s infield care center with a splint on one of his arms and plans to get X-rays upon his return home to Charlotte, N.C.
Other heavy hitters involved in on-track incidents included Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano. The series’ top-two rookies, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney also were caught up in wrecks.
“I got loose off of (turn) four and knocked the right-rear quarter off it and then got real loose,” Logano said. “When you get loose, you have to slow down more and you use a lot of brake to slow down. Usually, the next thing to go is the right-front tire, and that happened. Unfortunately, I put us in a bad spot here. It’s not where we wanted to be, and we’ll figure it out next week.”
The carnage wasn’t limited to the race track, either. A fire broke out in the parking lot behind the grandstand, starting with a grill in the back of a truck. The fire spread to cars parked nearby before being extinguished.