Keselowski has answers for everything, finishes NHMS sweep
LOUDON — Brad Keselowski had the 22nd annual Camping World RV Sales 301 Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway covered on Sunday.
And then some.
Keselowski dominated the Nationwide Series race on Saturday at NHMS and on Sunday picked up right where he left off.
Time after time — after getting whatever attention he needed in the pits — Keselowski drove directly to the front of the pack.
“Where do I start?” Keselowski said. “The team was just really on it today. It really feels like we hit our stride, and I’m kind of quiet and somber because I want to soak it all in.”
Keselowski was cruising to the win with two laps remaining when Justin Allgaier spun out with two laps to go and brought out a caution flag, giving the drivers following the leader one last shot at him with a green-white-checkered flag finish.
It didn’t help one bit.
Keselowski pulled away from the crowd again on the restart.
Kyle Busch, who started on the pole and ended up as runner-up for the third straight Cup race here, was asked if he felt he had anything to challenge Keselowski at the end of the race and summed things up succinctly.
“No,” Busch said. “I don’t think anybody had anything for him all day.”
Team owner Roger Penske understandably loved the way Keselowski looked.
“I got to see it from up on top,” Penske said. “At the end of the day, you can’t have a great car if you don’t have the best driver, and I can tell you today there was nobody that could beat him and it was just great execution from everybody.”
Keselowski’s was his 13th career Sprint Cup victory and third this season, matching Jimmie Johnson for the most triumphs in the series, and he became the 13th different winner in the last 13 Cup races at the NHMS.
For all intents and purposes, Keselowski had already clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with his two wins. NASCAR announced after the race that he and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had officially secured Chase berths as long as they attempt to qualify for the seven remaining races in the regular season.
Keselowski started seventh in the race and passed Denny Hamlin for his first lead at Lap 74. In all, he raced to the lead seven times and led for a total of 138 laps, more than double the 62 of Kyle Busch, who was next best.
The next five finishers behind Keselowski and Kyle Busch are all still looking for their first win of the season, a win that would most likely put them in the Chase.
Rookie Kyle Larson finished third and Matt Kenseth was fourth. Ryan Newman was fifth, Clint Bowyer sixth and Tony Stewart was seventh.
Hamlin finished eighth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was ninth and Earnhardt Jr. was 10th.
“I think we worked real hard to finish where we finished,” Earnhardt said. “It’s just real frustrating all day long to be playing second fiddle.”
Jeff Gordon came into the weekend with the lead in the Cup points standings and retained an edge despite having a topsy-turvy day and finishing 26th.
“The whole race for us was just so up and down and crazy,” Gordon said.
He started 11th and was seventh at Lap 30 and then started to slip.
“We had a leak in the right rear tire and went a lap down,” Gordon said. “I could barely hold onto it. I didn’t know what was wrong with it. I just knew it was really hard to drive.”
He fell back as far as 35th and then turned things around. He got back into the top five with 50 laps to go and even led 20 laps before Keselowski — who else? — caught him.
But the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet team was gambling it had enough gas to finish the race.
Gordon ran out of fuel on the extra laps.
“We might have run out anyway,” Gordon said. “But it was the best effort and chance we had at winning this race. And that’s what it’s all about for us in the points. Leading and where we’ve been, it’s all about wins right now.”
It didn’t take long for the drivers, who are off next weekend and return to action at Indianapolis on July 27 to start thinking ahead, and to the Sylvania 300 here in September.
“I wish we were better,” Earnhardt said. “We are going to have to come back here and run better than that to have a shot in the Chase. We will keep working. Tenth place, I’m really disappointed. But I remember when we used to like these.”