NASCAR: Keselowski wins Dollar General 300
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2011
JOLIET, Ill. ó Brad Keselowski used a dominating run Saturday to win the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, where he hoped to carry some momentum into the opening round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Keselowski capitalized on Carl Edwards running out of gas on pit road to grab a sizable lead that was never challenged. He beat Edwards to the finish line by 8.568 seconds for his third victory of the season.
It was the first win for the defending Nationwide champion since his July victory at Indianapolis. He broke his left ankle in a crash while testing at Road Atlanta four days after that win, and sat out three scheduled races as he healed.
He returned to NASCARís second-tier series three weeks ago, and broke through for the win on the eve of the opening round of the Chase. Keselowski won two Cup races after he was injured to storm through the standings and claim one of the two wild-card berths into the Chase field.
What does the win do for his chances Sunday?
ěThereís always the confidence, thatís the biggest thing,î said Keselowski, who will start sixth in the first of the 10 Chase races. ěI think weíre on a good stretch. We havenít even started the Chase. I like what weíre doing on the Nationwide side, and hopefully thereís some momentum and all those good things, good karma paying off and paying forward on the Cup side.
ěBut as of right now, itís just the Nationwide race, and tomorrow is tomorrow.î
Keselowski led four times for 158 of the 200 laps.
Edwards, another Chase driver, rallied from the fuel miscue to finish second.
ěI had a really good time racing with Brad about halfway through the race for the lead, that was a lot of fun,î Edwards said. ěWe just had a little trouble there on pit road. Ran out of fuel, then we had a really long green flag run. I would have liked the opportunity to race Brad, I guess we just didnít get that caution.î
But even after Edwards trailed Keselowski by a large margin for the final green-flag run, which stretched 131 laps, he praised NASCAR for not calling a suspect caution just to bunch the field back together.
ěI really applaud NASCAR for letting the race run its course. Anything can happen,î Edwards said.
Edwards isnít so sure, though, what kind of statement Keselowski made for the Chase.
ěIt is definitely two different series,î Edwards said. ěI canít tell you how many times I have run so well on Saturday and struggled on Sunday because it is so tough. They are two separate events.î
Keselowski is already considered a threat to challenge for the Sprint Cup title based on the run he reeled off after his Aug. 3 crash. He won the Cup race four days later at Pocono, was second at Watkins Glen, third at Michigan and then won at Bristol.
There were many who speculated Keselowskiís surge in Sprint Cup was due to him sitting out of the Nationwide Series. He insisted Saturday thereís no correlation.
ěI donít think itís fair to a lot of different people and to reality,î Keselowski said. ěThe reality of it is we have become more successful as a team as weíve been able to execute the weekend on the Cup side, and part of the reasons why weíre executing the weekend better are just plain luck. That didnít have anything to do with driving a Nationwide car the day before … I just donít connect the two.î
Brian Scott matched his previous career-best finish of third, earned at Chicagoland in July 2010.
Aric Almirola was fourth and Sam Hornish Jr. finished a career-best fifth.
The Associated Press