Brad Keselowski scores first Daytona win
Brad Keselowski celebrates in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway after winning the Coke Zero 400 on July 2, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Brad Keselowski dominated the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Saturday night, leading 115 laps of the race that was extended by a lap to 161 laps by a late-race caution. The win was the fifth Sprint Cup restrictor plate of Keselowski’s career, so far, but his first at Daytona.
“It’s been a kick in the you-know-what,” Keselowski said. “I got down on myself here. We came down here for the 400 and, quite honestly, we ran like dog crap, but my team worked on it. I didn’t give up on them. I believe in my team and my team believes in me, and we went to work and we put together a better car and it really showed today with a great effort from the whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”
The win also was the 100th at the NASCAR Cup level for car owner Roger Penske in his 50th year in motorsport.
Kyle Busch finished second, Trevor Bayne was third, Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano finished fourth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch took the white flag inside the top-five but wrecked heading toward the checkered flag and wound up with a 23rd-place finish.
“Those guys were doing a heck of a job,” Keselowski said. “Kyle and Kurt worked together really well, and my teammate, Joey Logano, was a huge part of this today. We had two great cars, here, with Team Penske and worked together really well.”
Roush Fenway Racing drivers Bayne and Stenhouse combined with teammate and race pole sitter Greg Biffle to put all three RFR entries in the top-10 as the team continues to rise above its struggles of the past few years. Biffle finished eighth.
“The Roush Fenway guys worked really hard,” Stenhouse said. “And Jack (Roush) has put a lot of confidence in everyone to get our cars better each week. We have really improved on the speedways.
The yellow flag waved five times in the race, with a lap-90 caution coming for a wreck that involved nearly half of the race field. The 19-car wreck seemed to start with contact between Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson. Among those involved were all three of Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates — Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne — Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Biffle and Danica Patrick, among several others.
“I was in the middle and something happened to the No. 1 (McMurray), and he went to the right and then he chased it and was in a slide and came back down in front of me, hit the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) door-to-door, kind of light contact,” Johnson said. “I thought we were fine, but I eventually turned him sideways and the whole thing happened. I don’t know what happened to the No. 1 to change lanes as fast as he did from the outside, but we are all dealing with a matter of inches, and once that started, it just collected everybody.”
McMurray thought, perhaps, a cut tire was the problem.
“I think somebody might have gotten into my left-rear. I don’t know if that cut the tire down or what, but after I felt that happen, I just didn’t have any control anymore,” McMurray said. “It seemed like a tire maybe went down, and it actually felt like I hit oil, so once you get to that point you just don’t — I think the contact with the No. 42 might have cut the tire, because I just didn’t have any control of the car, there. It is unfortunate, but it is just part of plate racing. I rode back in the ambulance with all those guys, and we just talked about it is part of plate racing.”
Tony Stewart, last week’s winner at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, ran in the back early in the race before gaining positions through the lap 90 wreck and then got inside the top-five with a fuel-only strategy during a lap-131 yellow flag. But with 12 laps to go, Stewart wrecked, and as a result, wound up 26th at the finish. Despite wrecking and finishing outside the top-20, Stewart climbed into the top-30 of the points standings, three points ahead of 31st-place Brian Scott, who was involved in the lap-90 crash.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell.