Brad Keselowski made a statement early on Friday by capturing the pole for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway and put an exclamation point on the weekend by dominating the field on Saturday to earn his second victory of the 2014 season.
Keselowski, the 2012 winner at Kentucky, led a race record 199 of 267 laps en route to his 12th career win in the Sprint Cup Series and second at the track, making him the first repeat Cup race winner in track history. After a restart with about 50 laps to go, Keselowski surged from sixth to the lead with 19 laps to go after passing then race leader Kyle Busch. From there, it was race over as the Team Penske driver cruised to a 1.041-second victory over Busch.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight to get back to Kyle and then race him,” Keselowski said. “We got there with a really fast car, and I hit the perfect run on him with traffic. Next thing I knew, we were there. It feels really good to get that second win.”
Keselowski’s night however took a weird turn in victory lane when a champagne bottle exploded in his hand, requiring him to get four stitches in his hand before finishing all of his post-race obligations.
Kyle Busch snapped a long top-five drought by finishing second on Saturday night. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver came into Saturday’s race on the heels of finishing 25th or worse in three of the last four races. Busch’s second-place finish was his first top five since Richmond in April. Busch marveled at the Penske cars post-race.
“I felt like we were better than Newman but nowhere near as good as Keselowski or [Joey] Logano,” Busch said. “Those guys were really stout.”
Rounding out the top five in Saturday’s Quaker State 400 were Ryan Newman with a season best third-place effort, 2013 race winner Matt Kenseth in fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who rallied from a 29th-place starting spot to finish fifth. Jeff Gordon finished sixth, followed by Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne with another good run in eighth. Logano finished ninth and Jimmie Johnson battled to a 10th-place finish after a poor qualifying effort led to a poor pit stall pick.
Keselowski’s dominating win wasn’t the only thing grabbing post-race headlines. The bumpy frontstretch of the Kentucky Speedway and lack of passing also made headlines. The rough track surface drew the ire of many of the drivers, including Earnhardt Jr.
“It sucks, man,” Earnhardt Jr. said of the rough frontstretch. “God almighty. It’s so brutal. It’s just terrible, man. And I hate it for the speedway, because they just got their date (four years ago). But man, it’s the most miserable thing out there. Ain’t nothing about that I want to do over again. I’m glad it’s over.”
Kyle Busch shared Earnhardt’s sentiment regarding the track.
“If you fix the start/finish line, just pave the straightaway there where it is the roughest and just calm that down some, I think we’d all be very grateful,” Busch said with a chuckle.
David Ragan, who finished 31st, expressed his thoughts on the track after the race on Twitter.
Well I feel like I had a fight with a concrete jack hammer for 4 hours! Glad we have Sunday off, and only 1 Kentucky race. Time 2 move on!
— David Ragan (@DavidRagan) June 29, 2014
Passing was at a premium at Kentucky as well. Only three drivers lead the race along with 12 lead changes left many fans to consider the race boring and uneventful, but Kenseth says there are two contributing factors to the issue.
“As soon as you’d take off on stickers (new tires), you had to do all your passing on restarts,” Kenseth said. “Once you got about five laps on tires and we got spaced out, it’s just so hard to pass.”
“There’s so much downforce on the cars with such a big spoiler, there’s just so much air on them that once you get in somebody else’s wake it’s just so hard to pass,” the 2003 champion continued. “It’s a great track, it’s really wide. The cars, at least my car, was really aero-sensitive. I could run guys down, but when you got about 6-7 car lengths away from them your car would stall out and you couldn’t make up much more ground.”
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the World Center of Racing, the Daytona International Speedway, for the traditional Fourth of July weekend Coke Zero 400. The green flag is set for 7:50 p.m. ET next Saturday night.
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