Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 9/2/14

When the final caution came out on Lap 209 of Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, it looked like the ensuing race off pit road between Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin would settle the outcome of the 267-lap event. On Lap 211, Johnson, Junior, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. and many of the other leaders hit pit road for the final time.

However, Keselowski, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards did not, and that proved to be the move of the race for eventual winner Keselowski.

The foursome would try to save enough fuel from their previous pit stop that took place just a few laps prior to the caution on Lap 209 and win the race. Like many others, I thought the battle between Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, and Truex Jr. on the restart would be the battle for the win.

Keselowski though had other ideas, however, as he used great fuel conservation to lead every lap following the restart to take the win in the second Cup event at Kentucky Speedway. When I moved down towards Turn 1 I noticed that Keselowski was pushing in the clutch to coast through the corners and save fuel. I honestly didn't think he could go 60+ laps on a fuel run, and even if he did I figured Junior would surely catch him. But neither of those two things happened as "Bad Brad" would pick up his series-high third win of the season.

Earnhardt Jr. looked to be Keselowski's biggest threat when Junior passed Jimmie Johnson off the restart, but Junior developed an extremely loose car and didn't even get past Carl Edwards until the No. 99 ran out of gas with three laps to go. Junior was passed by his teammate Kasey Kahne with seven to go, as the No. 5 was strong after fighting back from an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 53. That stop dropped Kahne down two laps, but he came back strong as was chasing down Keselowski at the end, but couldn't catch up.

Kahne had to settle for second, but that was as much of a victory for him after his incredible comeback.

Denny Hamlin finally ended his streak of 34th+ place finishes and came home third while Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five.

Gordon also was a factor from mid-race on, but after the final restart he developed an-ill handling race car as well and dropped back to eighth before rallying back into the top five.

Like his teammates Junior and Gordon, Jimmie Johnson had a handling issue after the final pit stops and went from restarting fourth and being a contender to finishing sixth. Johnson passed Hamlin with 78 to go for the lead and looked like he had the car to beat, but after coming to the last pit stop with the lead he couldn't muster a good enough run to get to the front.

For the Hendrick boys, they may feel that they let this one get away, but in the bigger picture it was a great points night. Three of the four improved in the standings as Junior will go to Daytona second in the points just 11 behind leader Matt Kenseth, while Johnson passed Greg Biffle for third and is only 23 back. Kasey Kahne was the third Hendrick driver to gain in the standings as he moved up three spots to 14th and is now in the second and final wild card spot.

Points leader Matt Kenseth finished seventh followed by Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger, while Kyle Busch used a great run after the final stop to come back to tenth after leading much of the race.

Busch looked to be the class of the field by jumping past pole sitter Johnson on the opening lap and led the first 30 plus laps. Keselowski got by him right before the first caution on the night, but Busch's crew got him out after the first pit stops during the caution. He went on to dominate the race until the next caution on Lap 124 for debris. Once again there were pit stops under yellow and Busch's crew got him out first.

That was the end of last year's inaugural winner's dominance. Busch would get passed on the restart by his teammate Hamlin and never contend the rest of the night. In fact, on the final pit stop of the night, Busch's crew kept bringing him down every lap under yellow to make some repairs to the car and had to start at the tail end of the lead lap. He remarkably drove through the field to finish 10th.

The race saw similar action as last year's Kentucky Cup race. It was hard to pass for the lead and clean air was at a premium. We only saw one wreck and that came when Ryan Newman blew his engine to bring out that final caution as he spun in the oil and hit the outside wall in Turn 2. Regan Smith was also collected in that wreck when he had no where to go, but skate along the outside SAFER barrier. That incident dropped Newman to 15th in the standings with a 34th place finish and also dropped him out of the second and final wild card spot. It also extended the streak of zero top-10's for Newman since his victory on April 1 at Martinsville.

The other Stewart-Haas driver, Tony Stewart, had problems as well when he developed an ignition problem on Lap 26. By time his team could get him back on the track he was 35 laps down and a non-contender despite having a fast race car. The problem dropped Stewart four spots in the points to ninth with his 32nd-place finish.

The series returns to Daytona next Saturday night for the always-exciting Coke Zero 400. David Ragan is the defending champion as Jack Roush will try to extend his win streak at Daytona to three races.

Race results

1. 2 Brad Keselowski
2. 5 Kasey Kahne
3. 11 Denny Hamlin
4. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. 24 Jeff Gordon
6. 48 Jimmie Johnson
7. 17 Matt Kenseth
8. 56 Martin Truex Jr.
9. 22 A.J. Allmendinger
10. 18 Kyle Busch

11. 29 Kevin Harvick
12. 27 Paul Menard
13. 9 Marcos Ambrose
14. 42 Juan Montoya
15. 1 Jamie McMurray
16. 15 Clint Bowyer
17. 93 Travis Kvapil
18. 13 Casey Mears
19. 51 Kurt Busch
20. 99 Carl Edwards -1

21. 16 Greg Biffle -1
22. 20 Joey Logano -1
23. 10 David Reutimann -1
24. 31 Jeff Burton -1
25. 83 Landon Cassill -1
26. 43 Aric Almirola -1
27. 47 Bobby Labonte -2
28. 38 David Gilliland -2
29. 34 David Ragan -4
30. 55 Michael Waltrip -5

31. 32 Ken Schrader -5
32. 14 Tony Stewart -36
33. 78 Regan Smith OUT
34. 39 Ryan Newman OUT
35. 36 Dave Blaney OUT
36. 30 David Stremme OUT
37. 26 Josh Wise OUT
38. 98 Michael McDowell OUT
39. 95 Scott Speed OUT
40. 87 Joe Nemechek OUT

41. 33 Stephen Leicht OUT
42. 19 Mike Bliss OUT
43. 23 Scott Riggs OUT


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