Sunday afternoon at Pocono, Brad Keselowski experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of “the feet” as he fought off a broken left ankle, a sore right foot, and a sore back to persevere and win the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono, holding off a determined Kyle Busch for the win by 0.791 seconds.
“It’s not me, its good people,” Keselowski humbly said after the race. “It’s having a Paul Wolfe (crew chief) and a team that digs. There are so many people to thank for being in Victory Lane, from Miller Lite to Sprint to the fans. I’m no hero. The heroes are the guys that died in Afghanistan this weekend and I want to spend time thinking about them. They were my inspiration for this weekend and the things that those guys do. I’m glad that we could win today, but those are the heroes. I just drive race cars for a living.”
Joey Logano started the race on the pole and led easily early on. On lap 13, the first caution of the race came out when Kyle Busch simply got loose under acceleration and spun exiting Turn 3 and ended up on pit road. NASCAR determined that Busch entered a closed pit, so he was relegated to the tail end of the longest line as the race when the race went back to green.
On Lap 20, David Ragan, while trying to make a banzai move into Turn 3, made contact with David Reutimann and backed into the wall, seriously hampering his hopes of making the Chase in the process, to bring out the race’s second caution of the afternoon. Bobby Labonte also spun to avoid Ragan’s spinning Ford. Labonte continued, while Ragan went behind the wall for repairs. He would return to the race and eventually finish 34th.
Following the restart, the race got into a long green flag run. Denny Hamlin assumed the lead from Kurt Busch on lap 25 and slowly drove away from the pack. A good stop under green allowed Hamlin to extend his lead to over five seconds.
After nearly 200 miles under green, the third yellow flew at halfway for debris in Turn 3. With weather on the way, the leaders returned to pit road. Logano took two tires to re-take the advantage. After the restart, Logano was able to consolidate his lead as the rain moved in closer. Finally, on lap 123, the skies opened and poured down on the scalene triangle. After just a lap under caution, NASCAR brought the field onto pit road and red-flagged the race. There, the cars sat for one hour, 40 minutes.
After the rain delay, Logano’s two tires were no match for Kurt Busch. Kurt blew by Logano on the restart and pulled out to a substantial advantage while the track had limited rubber on it. Kurt had put himself into position to take the lead by pitting along with his teammate, Brad Keselowski, under green right before the rains came.
Once the track began to rubber back in, Kurt Busch’s car began to fade. This allowed his younger brother Kyle to run him down. Kyle passed Kurt on Lap 164 to take the advantage and drove off into the distance prior to what was supposed to be the final round of green flag stops.
After that final round of stops, the fifth and final caution of the day came out when Juan Pablo Montoya squeezed Kasey Kahne into the wall exiting Turn 1, then spun out himself following some miscommunication by their spotters on Lap 179. Roughly two-thirds of the teams on the lead lap decided to take advantage of the yellow and stop for tires as well.
This bunched up the field for one final dash. On the restart, Jimmie Johnson made a bold move to go three-wide with Kyle Busch and Keselowski going into Turn 1. Kyle squeezed Johnson down low, and when all the chaos was sorted out, it was Keselowski in the lead exiting Turn 1.
From there, Keselowski opened up a small advantage over Kyle Busch. Kyle pressured Keselowski late, but Keselowski had the better car in Turn 3. This allowed Keselowski to pull away on the 3740 foot long fronstretch. With that strength, Keselowski was able to hold off Kyle Busch’s last gasp efforts to claim his second win of the season, and move himself back into Wild Card contention.
Kyle Busch was ultimately pleased with his second-place finish.
“It was a good day considering everything,” reflected Kyle Busch post-race. “Awesome opportunity to come out of here with a good day. Wish we could have got a win to get in the Sprint [Summer] Showdown as well as [to] just get another win to seat ourselves for the Chase. Missed it and just hate it for the guys — this M&M’s team, all these guys, Interstate Batteries on this Toyota. Just got bogged down with the 48 [Jimmie Johnson] trying to pass me [on the restart]. If I could have got a push, then I might have been able to stay alongside the 2 [Brad Keselowski] and beat him, but that’s racing. That’s what we’re all out here doing is to get all we can get.”
Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson raced each other hard for the third spot in the final lap. The elder Busch, after some paint-swapping with Johnson, emerged with third as a steamed Johnson had to settle for fourth.
“I was racing Jimmie [Johnson] hard there at the end,” Kurt Busch stated post-race. “I was racing, flat out. You want to race, let’s race. I didn’t know we were supposed to pull over when it came down to five to go. I raced him hard. I raced him smart. I raced him clean and he wants to come over here and bitch about it. Hey, he came off the turn and did at jab to my left; I did a jab back to the right. Why can’t we race each other like this and put on show for the fans and not have a problem with it? I don’t know.”
For his part, Jimmie had this to say post-race:
“It was a good battle; man, I worked hard to get by him,” Johnson said. “I got to the outside of him off of [Turn] 2 and I don’t know, he ran over the side of me off of [Turn] 2, which I didn’t really understand as I took a lot of patience and gave him a lot of courtesy throughout the course of the day running him down. I could have run into him. I could have moved him a lot of different ways to get that position, but I didn’t, you know? I went down there and passed him, and off of [Turn] 2; he ran me up into the wall, or tried to. And I held my ground so I wouldn’t get smashed in the fence.”
Ryan Newman rounded out the top-5 in his No. 39. Jeff Gordon finished in sixth, followed by points leader Carl Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and last week’s winner, Paul Menard, rounded out the top-10.
The average speed of the race was 137.878 mph with 23 lead changes among 10 drivers and five cautions for 21 laps. Keselowski led twice for 19 laps en route to the win with Denny Hamlin leading the most laps (four times for 65 laps).
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series makes their one and only visit to Watkins Glen International for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.
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