Sporting News Wire Service
|Keselowski ran off with third win of 2011|
Keselowski grabbed the lead on a restart with 80 laps left in the 500-lap Sprint Cup race and held on to win for the fourth time in his career. The victory all but assured Keselowski of at least a wild-card position in the upcoming Chase.
Martin Truex Jr. ran second, followed by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray. Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, pole-sitter Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose completed the top 10.
"Wow -- the night race at Bristol!" Keselowski exclaimed after exiting his car in Victory Lane, his broken ankle forgotten. "I used to watch Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt win this race. This is a race of champions. I can't believe it. There's races that pay more. There's races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all."
During the post-race celebration, Keselowski climbed onto the roof of his car, raised his fists into the air and then jumped from the roof to the tiled surface in Victory Lane. That's when he remembered the ankle, but the sudden stab of pain didn't diminish the satisfaction of a victory that belonged to a gritty driver and a team that produced in the pits when the race was on the line.
"A team that just starts to click and believe in each other," Keselowski said in explaining his recent success. "I believed in [crew chief] Paul [Wolfe] since we started this year, and we've just made good adjustments to our cars over the last few months. We made good adjustments to our car during the race [Saturday] and found ourselves in Victory Lane. I can't believe it -- I just can't."
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BRISTOL POST-RACE NOTES
• Brad Keselowski scored his fourth career Cup victory in his 77th race; his previous best Bristol finish was 13th.
• Brad Keselowski climbed from 12th to 11th in points; he has posted top-three finishes in the past four races, including two wins (climbed from 21st to 11th in those four races, gaining 74 points on 10th).
• Brad Keselowski led seven times for 89 laps, including the final 80.
• Penske Racing scored its 70th Cup victory , ninth at Bristol and fourth in 2011 (three by Brad Keselowski, one by Kurt Busch).
• Dodge posted its seventh victory at Bristol and fourth in 2011.
• Martin Truex Jr (second) posted his first top-five finish in his 12th race at Bristol; his previous best was 12th.
• Jeff Gordon (third) scored his first top-five at Bristol since spring 2009 (four races) and best finish since March 2007, the last race on the old surface.
• Jimmie Johnson (fourth) posted his fourth top-five in the past six races at Bristol and 10th top-five in 2011; he has finished in the top five in five of the past seven races.
• Jimmie Johnson has led at least one lap in the past six Bristol races, the longest current streak.
• Jamie McMurray (fifth) posted his third top-five finish at Bristol and third top-10 in the past four races there; it's his second top-five finish in 2011.
• Matt Kenseth (sixth) has posted top-10 finishes in his past five Bristol races.
• Ryan Newman (eighth) scored his sixth top-10 in the past seven Bristol races.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (16th) has been running at the finish in his past 23 Bristol races, the longest current streak.
• With his lead at Bristol, Kyle Busch has led in 18 of the 24 races this season, most by any driver.
• Kevin Harvick (fifth in points) and Jeff Gordon (sixth) need just four points at Atlanta or Richmond, which is 40th-place points, to clinch a spot in the Chase.
• If Ryan Newman finishes 20th or better at Atlanta he will clinch a Chase spot.
• If Kurt Busch finishes seventh or better at Atlanta he will clinch a Chase spot.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart can clinch Chase spots if they have a 49-point lead over 11th after Atlanta.
• Any driver 97 points behind 10th after Bristol cannot get into the top 10 in points; he needs a win in order to have a chance to make the 2011 Chase.