Monday, March 10, 2014
Keselowski beat Earnhart Jr. to win at Las Vegas
All Keselowski, then in third place, needed to do was pass the driver in front of him, Carl Edwards.
He did easily with just more than 20 laps left, setting up a duel with Earnhardt as well as a waiting game.
“I felt like we could run him down,” Keselowski said. “I could tell he was saving a little bit based on the lines he was running compared to where I had seen him earlier in the day.
“It was going to play out one of two ways. He was going to get in fuel-conservation mode, and I think I could have passed him and drove away, or he was going to have to burn fuel to keep me behind him. At that point, it was just a matter of whether a yellow came out or not because it was a ticking time bomb.”
The risk to go for the victory blew up on Earnhardt when his gas tank went dry midway through the final lap, allowing Keselowski to cruise by and win the Kobalt 400 before a crowd of about 100,000 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Las Vegas native Kyle Busch, driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, rallied from 41st to the front and led for 52 laps before finishing 11th. Brother Kurt, in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, was 26th.
It was quite a week for Penske Racing. Keselowski joined Jeff Burton in 2000 as the only ones to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races on the same weekend at LVMS. Team owner Roger Penske also nailed a hole-in-one on the No. 4 hole at Augusta National on Friday, the same day his other driver, Joey Logano, won the pole for the Kobalt 400.
The victory all but assures Keselowski that he and his No. 2 Ford will be in the Chase for the Cup. NASCAR changed the playoff format this year to accentuate the importance of victories.
Keselowski, 30, felt the sting of criticism after missing out on the Chase last season, one year after winning the Cup championship.
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