Published on October 13th, 2014 | by NASCAR Wire Service0
Keselowski Wins At Charlotte
In the closing laps of Friday night’s Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with an air of inevitability, Brad Keselowski tracked down teammate Ryan Blaney and made the pass for the win on Lap 187 of 200.
With frequent cautions giving crew chiefs multiple options and scrambling tire strategies, Keselowski had four fresh tires for the restart on Lap 182. It was simply a matter of time before he passed Blaney, who had gained seven positions with a two-tire stop under caution on Lap 169.
Keselowski finished .377 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch, who got past Blaney for the second spot on Lap 189. Matt Kenseth ran third, and Blaney held off Kyle Larson for the fourth position.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series victory was Keselowski’s fourth in nine starts this year, his third at Charlotte and the 31st of his career. But before he made the winning pass, Keselowski had a moment of doubt.
“Under the yellow (that preceded the final restart), I was confident,” Keselowski said. “Then he (Blaney) took off in those first five laps, and I went, ‘Uh, oh.’ I wasn’t holding back, and he was driving away, and then the pendulum swung.
“His car seemed to fall off—whether it was the two tires or just the nature of his car, I don’t know—but it came back to us. Yeah, when the yellow was out, I would have definitely said I was very confident, but after those first five laps, it swung back to us.”
Busch had a one-second lead over Keselowski with 40 laps left, but his winning chances suffered when NASCAR called a caution on Lap 167 after a suspension part came to rest on the backstretch apron.
“They were faster than us tonight,” Busch said of Keselowski’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford. “Just knew that with about 60 (laps) to go that we had a tire advantage over them, and that was going to be the way for us to win the race.”
“But bizarre debris cautions always ruin those things for you. It’s a shame.”
For the first two-thirds of the race polesitter Chase Elliott looked to be the driver to beat.
Elliott pitted off-sequence on Lap 18, restarted 19th on Lap 22 and worked his way up to fifth before a cycle of green-flag pit stops put him in the lead on Lap 61. When NASCAR called a debris caution on Lap 68, only four drivers remained on the lead lap—Elliott, Regan Smith, Brendan Gaughan and Dylan Kwasniewski.
That yellow was a godsend for Elliott, who could pit on Lap 70 without losing the top spot. Though Smith took the lead briefly after a restart on Lap 74, and held it through a caution for a multicar wreck near the start/finish line on Lap 74, Elliott regained the point on Lap 83 and pulled away to a lead of 2.5 seconds over Smith as the race reached its halfway point.
But varying tire strategies shuffled Elliott backwards after Busch passed him for the lead on Lap 146. And after the final restart on Lap 182, Keselowski asserted his superiority and successfully held off the fast-closing No. 54 Toyota of Busch.
Elliott came home eighth but extended his series lead to 42 points over JR Motorsports teammate Smith, who finished 11th Saturday.
The Lap 74 accident, proved the undoing of Ty Dillon, whose No. 3 Chevrolet suffered enough damage in the crash to force its retirement from the race. Dillon entered the race third in the series standings, but the wreck effectively ended his championship hopes.
Dillon finished 30th and dropped to fifth in the standings, 64 points behind Elliott with three races left in the season.