Chase drivers are supposed to win Chase races, as it has been said. That is usually the case each week when the final 10 races begin, and has rarely been different.
But, Brad Keselowski is not the typical non-Chase driver. He is the defending champion.
The big thing with the season of him and the entire No. 2 team has been one of learning, failing, struggle, and controversy. The biggest headline that Keselowski and his Penske Racing team had all year was their issue at Texas when NASCAR confiscated their rear-end housings, and penalized him and also teammate Joey Logano.
His team switched from Dodge to Ford, creating a new wrinkle in the quest to defend the title, and in doing so it proved to be a bigger learning curve than expected.
Through last week at Kansas, he had not won a race, and it was not enough to even get close to making the Chase. So now, Keselowski and his team were trying to just go the entire season without going winless, something he hasn’t done since getting behind the wheel of the No. 2 car in 2011.
Finally, when it mattered most, he got the combination right, and crew chief Paul Wolfe made the right adjustments to put him in that position.
At the end of Saturday night’s race at Charlotte, he and Kasey Kahne put on an intense battle, one that was clean, intense, and also fun. Kahne has always been a clean racer, and in some ways people think it hurts him. At the same time, Keselowski hasn’t always been the cleanest driver to race against, and that has hurt him. So it makes a unique dynamic when the two of them can race side-by-side for a few laps, not hit one another, and put on a show that the fans can be proud of.
In the end, Keselowski ended his winless streak, and can say he spoiled the Chase, at least for one week.
If he gets another win in the Chase, maybe his team and organization will realize that he can definitely win another championship down the road. For now, Keselowski is going to enjoy the victory all week long, until it is time to get back to business on the race track.
RESULTS: 1-Keselowski 2-Kahne 3-Kenseth 4-Johnson 5-Kyle Busch 6-Harvick 7-Gordon 8-Newman 9-Hamlin 10-Edwards
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Bowyer 14-Kurt Busch 15-Earnhardt Jr. 16-Biffle 18-Logano 20-Patrick
CAUTIONS: 4 for 20 laps. Lap 26-29 (#36 accident-T1), 84-90 (#14 oil on track-T1), 173-177 (debris-T3), 308-311 (debris-BS).
LEAD CHANGES: 24 among 11 drivers. Gordon 1-26, Gilliland 27, Kahne 28-29, Earnhardt Jr. 30-43, Kahne 44-73, Johnson 74, Newman 75, Edwards 76, Kyle busch 77, Kahne 78-90, Earnhardt Jr. 91-95, Kahne 96-128, Newman 129, Kenseth 130, Bowyer 131, Keselowski 132-133, Kahne 134-173, Kyle Busch 174, Kahne 175-177, Johnson 178-227, Kyle Busch 228, Johnson 229-307, Kyle Busch 308, Kahne 309-325, Keselowski 326-334.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 9 Mins, 53 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 158.308 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.022 Seconds
CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP: 1. Kenseth, 2225 points; 2. Johnson, -4; 3. Harvick, -29; 4. Gordon, -36; 5. Kyle Busch, -37; 6. Biffle, -58; 7. Kurt Busch, -59; 8. Bowyer, -63; 9. Earnhardt Jr, -66; 10. Edwards, -67; 11. Logano, -75; 12. Newman, -78; 13. Kahne, -81.