The No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge team gambled on fuel mileage late in the History 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, leaving driver Brad Keselowski out on the race track for the final 73 laps of the race. It was a move that left crew chief Jeremy Bullins nervous.
“The last 73 were the longest 73 laps of my racing career,” Bullins said.
The gamble paid off, though, in the form of a win. It was Keselowski’s first Nationwide victory of the year and his second at Charlotte.
“There’s a strategy,” Keselowski said in victory lane. But he refused to reveal that strategy, instead giving credit to Penske Racing engine builders.
Denny Hamlin finished second in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Kyle Busch was third in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.
“This is a very good improvement,” Busch said of his first-year NNS program. “We’re just the little guys that can.”
Joey Logano started the No. 20 JGR Toyota from the pole, but lost the lead to the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick on a restart following a lap 14 caution.
Harvick dominated much of the early part of the race, at times leading by nearly five seconds. He lost the lead temporarily to the No. 38 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne following a caution on lap 61, but Harvick retook the lead a few laps later and began to pull away from the field, again.
Logano retook the lead during a caution on lap 127 when he pitted for fuel only. Several others took only two tires during the caution to gain track position, moving Harvick back to sixth for the restart.
Kahne reassumed the lead on lap 132, and Keselowski soon moved into second. Keselowski then took the lead from Kahne a couple of laps later.
Keselowski faked heading down pit road when the yellow flag flew on lap 138, but he and Kahne stayed on the racetrack while the rest of the field headed down pit road. Hamlin and Busch took fuel only to restart behind Keselowski and Kahne.
With 43 laps to go, Busch passed Kahne for second. Soon after, Hamlin also got by Kahne for the third spot, and Kahne continued to lose positions, eventually falling outside the top-10.
Hamlin took second from Busch with 10 laps remaining, but was unable to get by Keselowski for the win.
“We fought handling, fought everything today,” Hamlin said. “I used my stuff up so much trying to get up through the field.”
Harvick finished fourth, and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-five in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“We picked up some points today with a top-five finish,” Sadler said.
Sadler gained 21 points on series leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished 26th after spending time in the garage while the driveshaft was replaced on his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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