You just never know. After what seemed like the worst race of all time, a race broke out in Charlotte (actually Concord) over the last 23 laps. On the rather pleasant night, the race had been dominated by Hendrick Motorsports. At one point, Hendrick Chevrolet’s held the top four positions and seemed to dominate. So complete was the domination that the quartet made up of Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had led 313 of the first 325. When the caution flag flew with only 25 laps remaining, many fans headed for the exits to get a head start on traffic. Some left even earlier.
What happened next was a script straight out of Hollywood, specifically “Days of Thunder.” Leader Johnson was no longer the leader, but Kahne led them to the green flag and then it happened. Out of nowhere came Brad Keselowski, the reigning Sprint Cup champion—the same one who had not won this year and who had missed the coveted Chase. They restarted at Lap 311, and after quickly getting into second place, he started to work on Kahne. Johnson hadn’t come up to speed even with four new tires. What resulted was a tight side-by-side battle between Keselowski and Kahne, who had only taken two tires. Keselowski drove like it was his last race and finally passed Kahne for his first win of 2013. Like on wag said, “He came out of nowhere.” Not exactly.
Keselowski has had his share of bad luck this year. After a decent start, his Penske Racing Ford team was heavily penalized early on. Then there was the racing luck. Though always competitive, it appeared that he couldn’t get a break to go his way. He didn’t make the cut for the championship run and it looked bleak for any success on Saturday night. A pit miscue caused him to carry his jack around the track underneath his car and put him far behind. Never giving up, Keselowski worked hard, first moving into the top 15, the top 10, and starting just outside the top 5 on the restart at Lap 309, he made his move. All of a sudden, what was a runaway became a race. Sorry so many missed that last 25 laps.
Earlier, it was Speedway Motorsports and Charlotte Motor Speedway mogul Bruton Smith made another threat to move a race from CMS to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, specifically the October date. Losing an appeal in court over an $80 million agreement on infrastructure improvements between the county where the speedway sits and Speedway Motorsports prompted the threat. It has happened before. When there was protest about building the Z-Max Dragway that sits adjacent to Charlotte Motor Speedway, the county backed down, making some promises but never signing a contract. Local businesses were outraged, but Smith contends he can make “a lot more money” in Las Vegas. We will see how this all plays out.
Much buzz was created in Friday night’s Nationwide Series race over the performance of youngster Kyle Larson. Larson has been tabbed as the drier to replace Juan Pablo Montoya in Chip Ganassi’s No. 42 Chevy in the Sprint Cup Series next year. Just barely old enough to vote, Larson thrilled the crowd by moving through the field and leading 17 laps. He wasn’t so lucky in the Sprint Cup race, finishing 37th and retiring with a blown engine. He will be interesting to watch in 2014.
Hendrick Motorsports had a good night at CMS, finishing second (Kahne), fourth (Johnson), seventh (Gordon), and 15th (Earnhardt). Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gave his fans a thrill by leading 19 laps and staying up front until he developed handling problems late in the race. Joe Gibbs Racing had a successful night with all three drivers finish in the top 10. Roush-Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing didn’t do so well. RFR placed only Carl Edwards in the top 10 and RCR’s Kevin Harvick finished sixth. Otherwise, only Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (RFR) finished in the top 20.