July 03, 2013Brad Keselowski got a gift from Mother Nature Friday night, winning the Feed The Children 300 Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway that was shortened by 30 laps due to a heavy rain. Keselowski worked his way up from the 10th row to lead before the rains came down.
"I didn't want to win it in a rain-shortened way, but I felt like we could have won it either way, but that's how it goes," Keselowski said as a deluge pounded the track. "With all the things that haven't gone our way this year, I guess it was time for something to go our way. So, we'll take it."
Austin Dillon, who won both Nationwide races at the track in Sparta last year, had the pole position and took the lead to begin the event ahead of Sam Hornish Jr. with Kyle Busch third. Busch, however, wasted no time getting to the front and took the top spot away from Dillon on Lap 19 of 200.
Busch ran away from Dillon to more than a six-second lead. Then came the first pit window at 50 laps when Busch came in for service, giving the lead to Hornish as Dillon fell behind. Four laps later, the first caution came out as Joe Nemechek saw his engine go up in smoke through Turn 4.
The race resumed on Lap 60 with Busch back up front after the field went through their stops. Keselowski then began moving toward the front and was second by Lap 75. Keselowski slowly closed the distance between himself and the leader. On Lap 94, Keselowski went under Busch in Turn 4 for his first lead of the night.
Keselowski's crew chief, Jeremy Bullins said the car was fast when they arrived at the track.
"It was fast when we unloaded it off the truck yesterday," he said. "We didn't manage the qualifying lap we were looking for. I'll take the blame for that one. I'm not very good at working on the qualifying part of this deal. We work on race setup a lot."
Keselowski's lead didn't last long as Busch went back in front on the backstretch on Lap 95. Keselowski patiently waited for another chance and used the inside of Turn 4 again to go in front and lead by 0.356 of a second at the halfway point, Lap 100.
"This track is a little unique in the fact that you don't run the bottom and you don't run the top," Keselowski said. "There's a specific groove right in the middle that seems to have the majority of the grip, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just unique in that fashion. Everybody is going to take advantage of it, with the aerodynamics being as important as they are."
Green flag stops began on Lap 105, and Keselowski gave up his spot on Lap 114 for service. On Lap 125, caution flew again for fluid on the track, ending a running of 66 laps under green with Keselowski back up front, Busch second, Hornish third, Elliott Sandler fourth and Dillon fifth. Just 12 cars were on the lead lap at the time.
Keselowski led through two more caution flags until Lap 143, when Matt Crafton took over after taking just right side tires during his service stop. The strategy didn't give Crafton as much of a lead as he hoped and Sadler ran by Crafton to lead on Lap 147 in front of the main grandstands.
Sadler led just nine laps before Keselowski went back in front on Lap 156. Eight laps later, the first rain drops began to fall from one big cloud over the track. The field ran eight laps under caution then was pulled into the pits under the red flag. Twenty-three minutes later, the race was called as heavy rain took away any chances of a restart, with Keselowski getting the win.
"This car was phenemonal," Keselowski said. "The execution from the team was phenomenal. I'm just in one of those rare instances where, as a driver, you know that you have everything going for you team-wise, car-wise, etc., and you're thinking to yourself, 'Boy, I hope I don't screw this up. This car is this good.' So, I just felt really lucky."
"Once the race started, we felt like he was making his way pretty well," Bullins said. "We were just trying to stay on ahead of the race track and, once he got the lead, he was talking about not messing up, and I'm thinking the same thing on the box. 'I'm not going to mess this up.' At that point, you're just trying to pit at the right time and get yourself to the end."
Sadler finished second with Crafton third. Brian Vickers finished fourth, and Busch rounded out the top five spots. Last year's winner, Dillon, finished sixth.
"The cautions set us back," Vickers said. "We lost track position again. We worked our way back forward again and did a good job on the changes. We had a good car tonight. I don't know if we could have beat (Keselowski), definitely not with two tires. He had four, and they were pretty quick there at the end."
Crafton said, if the race had gone green after the rain, a lot was going to happen in Turn 1.
"I was going to make something happen one way or other, whether it was going to be ugly or going to be good," Crafton said. "I'm very happy to finish third, but I'm still not satisfied, because I know we can go win races."
"I feel lucky to get to drive his car," Keselowski said. "The last two drivers before have won races in it, and Ryan Blaney is going to get to drive it and, hopefully, he will get to win in it. This is the type of car you get once a year, if you are lucky. Driving this car, I feel like Jimmie Johnson. This is a rocket."
1. Brad Keselowski Ford 170 Running
2. Elliott Sadler Toyota 170 Running
3. Matt Crafton Chevrolet 170 Running
4. Brian Vickers Toyota 170 Running
5. Kyle Busch Toyota 170 Running
6. Austin Dillon Chevrolet 170 Running
7. Kyle Larson* Chevrolet 170 Running
8. Nelson Piquet Jr.* Chevrolet 170 Running
9. Sam Hornish Jr. Ford 170 Running
10. Alex Bowman* Toyota 170 Running
11. Kevin Swindell* Ford 170 Running
12. Trevor Bayne Ford 170 Running
13. Justin Allgaier Chevrolet 170 Running
14. Brad Sweet Chevrolet 170 Running
15. Travis Pastrana Ford 170 Running
16. Parker Kligerman Toyota 170 Running
17. Brian Scott Chevrolet 169 Running
18. Michael Annett Ford 169 Running
19. Mike Bliss Toyota 169 Running
20. Johanna Long Chevrolet 168 Running
21. Mike Wallace Chevrolet 168 Running
22. Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 168 Running
23. Eric McClure Toyota 167 Running
24. Ken Butler III Toyota 167 Running
25. Jeremy Clements Chevrolet 166 Running
26. Bryan Silas Ford 166 Running
27. Jamie Dick Chevrolet 165 Running
28. Carl Long Chevrolet 164 Running
29. Harrrison Rhodes Ford 164 Running
30. Regan Smith Chevrolet 153 Running
31. Cole Whitt Toyota 107 Transmission
32. Joey Gase Chevrolet 90 Engine
33. Joe Nemechek Toyota 52 Engine
34. Blake Koch Toyota 16 Brakes
35. Morgan Shephard Chevrolet 15 Handling
36. Landon Cassill Chevrolet 14 Engine
37. JJ Yaley Chevrolet 10 Transmission
38. Josh Wise Chevrolet 7 Vibration
39. Derrike Cope Chevrolet 3 Rear Gear
40. Jeff Green Toyota 3 Vibration
Time of Race: 1 hr., 56 mins., 39 secs.
Average Speed: 131.162 mph
Margin of Victory: Caution
Cautions: 5 for 25 laps
Lead Changes: 12 among 7 drivers