Keselowski snatches first at Dover
By Dan Gelston ,APDOVER, Delaware -- Brad Keselowski had just enough fuel left to take the checkered flag Sunday at Dover International Speedway for his second victory in three weeks.
October 2, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
Keselowski won the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship opener at Chicagoland and followed that by conserving enough fuel down the stretch at Dover.
Keselowski raced to his fifth victory of the season and zipped into the points lead.
Chase driver Jeff Gordon finished second. Jimmie Johnson lost his grip on the points lead with a fourth-place finish.
Johnson and Denny Hamlin, who faded to eighth, had two of the top cars all race. They just did not have enough fuel to make a hard, clean push in the closing laps of the 400-mile race.
There are seven races left in the Chase.
Keselowski heads to Talladega Superspeedway as the hottest driver in the Chase.
“There's a lot of racing to go, a ton of racing to go,” Keselowski said. “Certainly, we're in good position.”
Kyle Busch and Johnson had to ease off the gas late in the race and were denied their chances of victory. For Busch, it would have been a nice confidence boost in a season where he failed to make the Chase. Johnson lost a chance to win his record eighth race at Dover when he had to slow down in the No. 48 over the final laps.
Hamlin briefly took the lead but he had to make a pit stop of his own with 10 laps left. Hamlin had talked this week about embracing Dover after calling the mile concrete oval his least favorite one on the circuit. He won the pole and seemed in position to pull off a breakthrough win until fuel issues forced him down pit road behind Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.
That left it to Gordon and Keselowski to duel for the lead over the closing laps.
Gordon hoped Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge would run out of instead.
Instead, Keselowski ran off with the victory.
“We were just a top-five car all weekend,” Keselowski said. “My guys just kept us there. When you're in top five, you're in good position for things to happen.”
Gordon followed his third place last week at New Hampshire with another strong run at Dover. He needed it after a 35th-place finish in the opener at Chicagoland buried him in the standings.
“We're not going to continue in this championship against those guys up front if they keep running the way they're running,” he said. “The only way we're going to get a chance at them is if they have a problem like we had (in the opener). If we keep running like this, we'll get the wins.”
Keselowski had four career wins coming into the season. He had his career breakthrough at Talladega in 2009 when he won his first career race. He won there again this season in May.
There were some rough finishes for the rest of the Chase field. Martin Truex Jr. was sixth, Clint Bowyer was ninth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 11th, Kevin Harvick 13th, Kasey Kahne 15th, Greg Biffle 16th, Tony Stewart 20th, and Matt Kenseth was knocked out of the race and was 35th.