Brad Keselowski squeezed every drop of fuel out his tank Saturday, pressing his No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge 73 laps to win the History 300 NASCAR Nationwide race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“The last 73 were the longest 73 of my racing career,” said Jeremy Bullins, crew chief for Keselowski. “I’m just so happy to finally put this group where it belongs in Victory Lane.”
It was Keselowski’s first Nationwide victory and his sixth top-10 finish of the season.
“We gambled, but I think it was a smart gamble,” Keselowski said. “Obviously it was a smart gamble; it paid off.”
Denny Hamlin finished second despite changing a carburetor during a pit stop early in the race, and Kyle Busch fought an ill-handling race car to end up third.
“We just didn’t have that good of a car today,” Hamlin said. “I complained about the motor early; it just didn’t feel like it ran at the end of the straightaway for some odd reason. We tried to change carburetors and that didn’t fix it and just got stuck in 14th for a while until we got the handling where it was at least drivable, and then we were able to make our move to the front. But I’ve got to give credit to our race-day adjustment. I feel like I was sending our crew chief off on the wrong direction.”
After dominating the first half of the race, leading 69 of the first 100 laps, Kevin Harvick came home in fourth place.
Points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had driveshaft problems that forced him to the garage for a part change mid-race. He rejoined the event 24 laps down and finished 26th, while his points lead dwindled to 13 over Elliott Sadler, who finished fifth.
Travis Pastrana had a difficult introduction to superspeedway racing, spinning twice during the race (as well as once during qualifying) in nearly the same place coming out of Turn 4. He apologized profusely to his crew on the radio afterward, saying he had “no idea what was going on.”
Racing continues Sunday with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the greatest test of man and machine.
BRAD KESELOWSKI (Winner, No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge) – “Everybody at Penske Racing, they do a great job with fuel mileage obviously, and they deserve a lot of credit. I mean, there is only so much you can do as a driver, and a lot of it comes down to the car and what it needs. It was hard to save. Denny (Hamlin) was running pretty hard. I knew he was going to be pretty tough, him and Kyle (Busch). They all did a great job. It was fun racing them, but I’m thankful we were able to save enough fuel. It is one of the biggest wins of my career, to win on Memorial Day weekend, and what it means to me and this country. It’s just great.”
JEREMY BULLINS (Crew chief, No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge) – “The last 73 (laps) were the longest 73 of my racing career. We’ve just had a lot of little things go wrong. Just so happy to finally put this group where it belongs, in Victory Lane.”
DENNY HAMLIN (Second place, No. 18 SportClips Chevrolet) – “It was eventful; we just didn’t have that good of a car today. I complained about the motor early; it just didn’t feel like it ran at the end of the straightaway for some odd reason. We tried to change carburetors and that didn’t fix it and just got stuck in 14th for a while until we got the handling where it was at least driveable, and then we were able to make our move to the front. It was good on long runs, it just didn’t have a lot of frontline speed. But I’ve got to give credit to our race-day adjustment. I feel like I was sending our crew chief off on the wrong direction.”
KYLE BUSCH (Third place, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota) – “It was a good day for us. Through the early stages of the race it seemed like we really struggled with too tight up off the corners, and more and more as the run would go along, it would really get bad. The last run of the race though, coming down pit road for fuel only, after we had just taken rights, so our lefts were pretty old, we made some adjustments, track bar and wedge and the adjustments we made really seemed to work for us. It brought to running up front like that and turning some faster lap times and keeping the right front tire on longer at least and we could run with the leader. I just wasted too much time with Kasey Kahne; he was running hard, tried to hold us off at the end for the start of the last run and the leaders got too far away. Cut about half the distance out but was never able to close more than that. We’re making gains on it, so I can’t say enough about our guys. We’ll just keep working hard to get to where we need to be. (Would you have believed a car could go 73 laps on fuel?) No. There’s no way our stuff would’ve done that. So that’s definitely different. But anything’s possible. Maybe they saved really hard on their cautions.”
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