NASCAR: Keselowski wins Nationwide race

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 1, 2009

Associated Press
NEWTON, Iowa ó The inaugural Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway came down to a two-man battle between points leader Kyle Busch and top series regular Brad Keselowski.
In a twist that’s becoming all too common for Busch, he was forced settle for yet another second-place finish. This time, it was Keselowski who pulled off the victory with a gutsy move down the stretch.
Keselowski passed Busch with eight laps left and held on to win Saturday for his fourth career NNS win. Keselowski stayed on the track during a caution flag late in the race, a risk that paid off with his second victory of the year.
Keselowski also won at Dover on May 30, in addition to a Sprint Cup Series victory at Talladega in April.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better finish,” Keselowski said. “It’s lot more fun to say I beat Kyle heads-up. That means a lot to me.”
Busch, who started at the back after spending the morning in Pennsylvania practicing for the Sprint Cup race Sunday at Pocono, lead for 84 laps. He has nine consecutive top-two finishes, tying the series record set by Jack Ingram in 1983.
Busch wasn’t all that thrilled about such a distinction. It was the fourth time in five Nationwide races that Busch finished second, though he still has a 207-point edge over Carl Edwards in the season points race.
“Apparently, I don’t know what I need in my race cars in order to win these races at the end of them,” Busch said. “It’s a frustrating day.”
Jason Leffler was third, followed by Edwards and Kelly Bires.
Keselowski and Busch broke free from the rest of the field with about 60 laps to go. Busch then slipped past Keselowski with 25 laps left and looked to be in the clear. But the 12th caution flag of the day came with just 10 laps later. Keselowski made his move shortly after the restart, slipping past Busch ó who wasn’t comfortable with his car for most of the race ó for the win.
“I wouldn’t say we say caught a good break, but we played the odds and I would say that 75 percent of the time, that what we did would win the race,” Keselowski said of his critical decision not to pit and instead stick with his tires. “It would take things to line up just perfectly against us for us not to win the race, which at one point it appeared that’s how it was going to happen. But it’s the right call.”
As an added bonus, Keselowski picked up an extra $75,000 by taking the Dash 4 Cash bonus offered to Nationwide regulars at stand-alone races.
Nationwide rookies Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Allgaier posted identical qualifying times earlier Saturday, but Stenhouse was awarded the pole on owner’s points. Allgaier grabbed the early lead and kept it for 35 laps, by far the most of his young Nationwide career, but he was bumped on pit row and Keselowski surged ahead.
It didn’t take long for Busch to catch the leaders. Busch quickly vaulted from the back to fourth and grabbed the lead about a third of the way through the race.
Though a few other drivers threatened from time to time, Keselowski and Busch combined to lead all but 45 of the 250 laps.
This was a very important weekend for the Iowa Speedway, which in just its third full season landed IndyCar, Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide series races, and it couldn’t have had better weather or crowds.
The temporary stands erected for Saturday’s race were full, pushing attendance to over 56,000, and temperatures in the mid 70s greeted fans who’ve waited a long time to see a major NASCAR event in their backyard.
According to NASCAR records, it was the highest-level NASCAR points race run in Iowa since Herb Thomas won at Davenport Speedway in 1953.
But the 0.875-mile Rusty Wallace-designed oval was new to most of the drivers. That unfamiliarity contributed to 12 yellow flags and 56 laps under caution.
Keselowski survived all the flags and received a rousing ovation afterward from an enthusiastic crowd that had given Busch a mixed reception during introductions.
“Everybody loves someone that beats Kyle Busch,” Keselowski said.