“Bad” Brad Keselowski took the lead in Saturday’s Nationwide Series with over 50 laps to go and was able to hold onto the lead and drive to victory lane in the 31st Annual History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Joey Logano scored his 19th career series pole to lead the field to green in Saturday’s race. Just as the field brought Lap 1 to a close, the field was already three-wide from third place back, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gaining on the lead. Travis Pastrana spun coming out of Turn 4 to bring out the first caution of the day. He managed to keep his car off the wall and brought his Toyota down pit road for four fresh tires.
Logano and Hornish were the leaders on the restart, after Austin Dillon dropped back to sixth position. Just two laps later, Stenhouse jumped out to take over second position and threatened Logano for the lead.
Caution was thrown on Lap 13 when Robert Richardson’s engine blew in Turn 1. Richardson was unable to steer his car and hit the outside wall; this caused Richardson’s car to go up in flames. He was forced to park his car on the backstretch to get out quickly and avoid the conflagration. Richardson was treated and released from the infield care center.
While under caution, Denny Hamlin brought his car down pit road for engine issues and went one lap down. Logano led the field at this point, with Kevin Harvick in second position; the field went green on Lap 22. It took Harvick just one lap to take the lead from Logano coming out of Turn 4 on the restart.
Just as Danica Patrick was coming to pit road to start green-flag pit stops, The No. 00 of Angela Cope, in her fifth Nationwide series start, came to a slow on the front stretch. The caution came out while many cars were on pit road, including Kyle Busch, who went down pit road in fourth position and came out in 11th. Patrick dropped back to 28th position after her green flag pit stop.
Just two laps after the restart on Lap 59, Pastrana spun off of Turn 4, once again, and did not hit anything. Stenhouse brought his No. 6 car down pit road under this caution for engine and radio communication issues. He described to his team that he felt something hit his feet under the floor board on the track. Upon further evaluation, it was a part of the drive shaft came out from under the car, which broke the drive shaft. Stenhouse took his car to the garage for repair. When he came back to the track with 110 laps to go, he was scored at 33rd position, 22 laps down.
Kasey Kahne was the leader and Harvick held the second position on the restart. The field ran mostly single file until caution flew with 74 laps to go when Taylor Malsam made minimal contact with the outside wall.
Logano and Kahne restarted on the front row and immediately had “Rowdy” Busch trying to take over the third position from Harvick. Keselowski, who took four tires on his pit stop, took the lead from Kasey just three laps after the restart.
As the saying goes, “Cautions breed cautions” and this was true at Charlotte when caution flew, yet again, when Josh Richards and Jason Bowles wrecked in Turns 1 and 2. Strategy cautions began to play out under caution, as Keselowski and Kahne began to go down pit road, but jumped out to stay on track at the last second.
The first three lead cars - Keselowski, Kahne, and Allgaier - did not pit under caution. A wreck occurred immediately on restart involving Cole Whitt and Brian Scott. Scott’s car became extremely loose coming out of Turn 2 and spun across the track, crashing into the inside wall head on. Whitt, in an attempt to check up and avoid hitting Scott, got turned from behind. The restart came with 46 laps to go, with Keselowski, Kahne, Allgaier, Busch, and Hamlin in the top 5.
With 15 to go, Busch was out-running Keselowski by two tenths of a second per lap while running in second position. However, Keselowski held on for the final 56 laps to drive his No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge to victory lane. Keselowski gets the first win of the weekend as Roger Penske hopes to sweep the weekend, in both NASCAR and IndyCar. This win was the first career win for Keselowski’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins.
“We had no choice at that point but to gamble,” Bullins said after the race. “We felt like track position was key.”
Busch told the media after the race that he wasn’t sure how the No. 22 of Keselowski was able to go 73 laps on fuel without pitting. “I’m not gonna give you the how part,” Keselowski said after the race. “There’s a strategy and you know, Penkse Racing engines, they do a great job with fuel mileage on the Dodges and they deserve a lot of credit for it. There’s only so much you can do as a driver and a lot of it comes down to the car and what it needs.”
Hamlin, after replacing the carburetor in his racecar early in the race, finished in second position. “We didn’t have that good of a car today,” Hamlin said. “I complained about the motor early – just didn’t feel like it ran at the end of the straightaway for some odd reason. I’ve been wondering where our speed was all weekend. We tried to change the carburetor and that didn’t fix it. Just got stuck in 14th or so for awhile until we got the handling and it was at least drivable, and then we were able to make our move to the front.”
Sadler, who flew under the radar for most of the race, finished in fifth position and gained valuable points for the championship battle between him and Stenhouse. Although Stenhouse is still the point’s leader, Sadler cut down the lead to just 13 points. Stenhouse finished in 26th position, 21 laps down.
“Our Ford EcoBoost Mustang was by far a top-five car and had a chance to win for sure, so we can take that from today and go on,” Stenhouse said. “Our mile-and-a-half program this year has been really strong and it was strong again here today. We went back out and tried to learn some things for our cup guys and learn some things for use the next time we come back here. We had a really fast car there at the end, so all in all, it was obviously a tough day for points, but we’ve got to hang our hat on we were really fast.”
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Elliott Sadler
6. Joey Logano
7. James Buescher
8. Justin Allgaier
9. Sam Hornish Jr.
10. Joey Coulter
1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2. Elliott Sadler, -13 points
3. Austin Dillon, -28
4. Sam Hornish Jr., -57
5. Cole Whitt, -94
6. Justin Allgaier, -94
7. Michael Annett, -99
8. Mike Bliss, -139
9. Danica Patrick, -166
10. Joe Nemecheck, -168