SPARTA, Ky. — Not only did Brad Keselowski endure carnage, but he also saved enough fuel to hold off a charging Carl Edwards, make the finish and score the victory in the Bluegrass State.
When asked how he saved fuel in the end, he said he “almost didn’t, but I’ve got to give credit to my guys, the Roush Yates Engine shop, and everybody at Ford. We knew the fuel mileage. We went out and we set a really fast pace there on that restart and was just using fuel, and then it became obvious that you were gonna have to save fuel at the end, but I already used so much. It’s a testament to our guys to have the fuel mileage that we did to be able to get back what I burnt early in the run and get the Miller Lite Ford in Victory Lane. It’s number four this year. Gosh, that’s great. Usually these repaves are kind of my Achilles heel, but to get a win here at Kentucky. I know it’s been a good track for us in the past, but this isn’t the same Kentucky, I can tell you that. These cars were tough to drive today, but a good tough. This was a hard-fought battle and I’m really proud of everybody on the 2 crew to get win number four and take that first place.”
It’s the 21st career victory in 251 Sprint Cup Series starts, fourth of the 2016 season and 12th top-10 finish of the season as well as his third win and fifth top-10 finish in six races at Kentucky Speedway for the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.
Edwards posted his 12th top-10 finish of 2016 and third top-10 at Kentucky in six races with a runner-up finish in his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“I thought I had him, too,” Edwards said of trying to get by Keselowski on the final lap. “He played it perfectly and he did it – he won at the absolute slowest possible speed he could. I thought he was out of fuel and that was that. I just appreciate the crowd coming out here, it’s always neat to come to Kentucky. It’s the site of my first win 13 years ago and it’s a special place…That’s a tough one to be that close. We were getting such good fuel mileage with our TRD (Toyota Racing Development) engine, I think we might have had a little extra there. That’s going to be the hard part, going to bed knowing you could have gone a little faster.”
Ryan Newman rounded out the podium in his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“We had a good car,” Newman said of his race. “We really struggled, like most people did in dirty air. Track position was definitely key, but I’m proud of these guys on the Caterpillar Chevrolet; all the ECR guys, they obviously did a good job on the fuel mileage to make that happen. I think all us drivers that made it, knew what we were doing, it’s just a matter of it we thought we were as good as we were. And, I could have used this iced cold Coke about 30 laps from the end. I’m just proud of the guys. It’s our first Top-5 of the year, but we’ll keep digging.”
Kurt Busch, who started from the rear in a backup car, led 10 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish in his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. His fourth-place finish gives him a top-five finish at every track on the NASCAR schedule.
“That is a nice feather in the cap,” Busch said of the significance of the milestone. “It’s special to have raced for good teams over the years to give me winning cars. Top five’s are special everywhere. As a driver it feels like you got something at each of the places to be competitive, give to the team, to give feedback and then the team can give better feedback to me on how we can win. Today, we persevered. I have never seen such an effort from everybody to dig deep and to just be back on their heels the whole time and just start to lean forward, lean forward and then right at the end to turn into fuel mileage and our car just came to us at the end. It was a perfect day for us to get a top five. We had to sweat it all weekend.”
Tony Stewart rounded out the top-10 in his No. 14 SHR Chevrolet.
Greg Biffle finished sixth in his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Jamie McMurray finished seventh in his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Matt Kenseth led two laps on his way to an eighth-place finish in his No. 20 JGR Toyota, preserving his status as the only driver to finish in the top-10 in every Sprint Cup Series race held at Kentucky.
“We were three laps short, exactly if the calculations were right,” Kenseth said of fuel mileage concerns. “It was unfortunate tonight. We ran well tonight with our Dollar General Camry, its’ the best we ran in two months really. I thought we had a top-three to a top-five car. Throughout the night we just didn’t get good fuel mileage.”
Kevin Harvick led 128 laps, the most of any driver, on his way to a ninth-place finish in his No. 4 SHR Chevrolet. Martin Truex Jr. led 46 laps and overcame a pass-through penalty to round out the top-10 in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota.
Austin Dillon, who led one lap, finished 16th. Danica Patrick, who led two laps, finished 17th. David Ragan, who led two laps, finished 22nd. Ty Dillon led one lap and finished 25th.
Sixteen cars finished the race on the lead lap and 32 were running at the finish. Eight cars failed to finish the race via accident.
The race lasted three hours, six minutes and 55 seconds at an average speed of 128.580 mph. There were 16 lead changes among nine different drivers and 11 cautions for 53 laps.
Harvick leaves Kentucky with a four-point lead over Keselowski in the drivers’ championship standings.