Brad Keselowski‘s decision to stay out when a caution was thrown on lap 154 of the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and play out the last 46 laps on the one set of tyres paid off when he led Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag to win by 1.137 seconds on Friday night.
“I might be biased but I thought that was the best race I’ve ever seen in my life, and I was driving the car, so I can imagine what the fans saw – that was awesome,” said Keselowski in the winner’s circle. “The decision to stay . . . we had pitted just five laps before the yellow came out and felt really good about it. I knew that Paul (Wolfe), my crew chief, had made an adjustment right there at the end, on the last stop, and my car was just flying.”
He went on to say, “We quite honestly weren’t very good on test day and wasn’t very good the first half of the race, and I’ve got to credit it to Paul. That guy’s amazing. He gave me the car I needed to win with at the end. This Challenger flew.” This was the fourth and last time the new cars – the Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Impala – were used this season before they become the full-time cars in 2011.
The top five places were completed by Justin Allgaier, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer who ran well all night in the #21 Zaxby’s Chevrolet but ruined his chances once again with a pit-lane speeding penalty when he pitted during the lap 154 caution, a contentious yellow thrown because of a NASCAR error. Brian Scott in the #09 Ford had been called back to pit road when an official claimed it had only four lug (wheel) nuts on one of its wheels. It was found to have the full five on so NASCAR chose to throw the yellow when Scott had a chance to reclaim the lost lap.
One of those decisions where the governing body will always be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, they did the right thing for Scott correcting their error but in the process ruined Kevin Harvick‘s strategy and, in a race he felt he could win, he was left to trail home in tenth place feeling suitably aggrieved. As if to rub salt into the wounds Scott ruined NASCAR’s good intents later when he spun on the front stretch on lap 182 triggering another caution period, his second spin of the day.
Scott wasn’t the only one to spin or crash with Parker Kligerman backing into the wall at turn four as early as lap two and then Joe Nemechek, Michael Annett and Shelby Howard crashing together between turns one and two just four laps after the restart.
Danica Patrick was in a philosophical mood after her 21st place finish, frustrated that when she had a car that ran really fast she crashed out of the race – and genuinely never her fault – but when she was having what could best be described as an average race the car always came back undamaged. Her race in Charlotte was most definitely average – on the early restarts she visibly dropped back from the cars ahead of her – and her car was more or less damage free bar a brief rub against the wall just before the lap 10 yellow flags. Nevertheless 21st place is her best finish to date.
Keselowski’s eleventh career win, and fifth of the season, in the NASCAR Nationwide Series leaves him 450 points clear of second place Carl Edwards in the table. Finishing in the top 25 at each of the remaining races will see Keselowski crowned champion at Homestead in November.