Saturday night's Quaker State 400 capped off one of the best two-day periods ever for Brad Keselowski on a race track. A day after winning the poles for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races and finishing second in the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300, Keselowski took home the checkered flag at the Kentucky Speedway:
Brad Keselowski wins the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky! pic.twitter.com/vxPFSa1pLj— NASCAR from B/R (@BR_NASCAR) June 29, 2014
Two was the number of the night, as the No. 2 car picked up its second win of the season and second at Kentucky.
Keselowski was dominant in victory. He had by far the best car on the track, and his 199 laps led illustrate that. ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee had a unique way to characterize Keselowski's performance:
Fellow Team Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Blaney congratulated their teammate on a job well done:
Early on, he was exchanging the lead with Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, who started the race in second. The No. 22 car fell off as the race went on and then suffered what appeared to be an engine problem down the final stretch, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News:
Logano might have an engine issue. #nascar— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 29, 2014
Logano went on to finish ninth, which was impressive considering his engine issues.
Kyle Busch attempted a late run at Keselowski and managed to lead 31 laps. But just as he was in the Nationwide Series race on Friday, Busch was overtaken by Keselowski and couldn't mount a comeback. Once the No. 2 car regained the lead with 19 laps to go, there was no going back:
Keselowski thought the way in which he won puts him into the title talk, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck:
“feels like championship form to me” - Keselowski.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) June 29, 2014
Here are the top-10 finishers from the Quaker State 400, courtesy of NASCAR.com:
|5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||0|
Below are the most recent points standings, courtesy of NASCAR.com:
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||594||2|
Although he only finished fifth, it's hard not to single out the performance from Dale Earnhardt Jr. The No. 88 car had a terrible qualifying round and started Saturday night in 29th. After qualifying, Earnhardt tweeted out that he was bereft of advice for his pit crew:
The cars been off all day. Lots of issues, esp in qualifying. Not sure I got an idea that can help the guys improve it. Still determined.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 27, 2014
Earnhardt and his crew must've figured out whatever the problem was, because he immediately started moving to the front the pack. Although he was never much of a threat to Keselowski, Busch or Logano, making up 24 spots from the start always deserves praise.
One driver who entered Kentucky hoping to turn his luck around was Jamie McMurray—but that quest failed. The No. 1 car started Saturday 19th in the points standings, 19 points off Greg Biffle for the final spot in the Chase.
On Lap 153, Alex Bowman spun out, creating a cloud of smoke in the process. Aric Almirola was completely blind trying to navigate through the fog and ended up slamming into the side of McMurray, sending him to the bottom of the track:
McMurray and his pit crew weren't happy with the way the No. 43 car failed to adjust after seeing the wreck:
McMurray team frustrated that Almirola did not slow down for that wreck. They believe Aric should have rolled out of the gas before smoke.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) June 29, 2014
McMurray returned to the race, but by the time he got back out on the track, he was near the back of the pack, eventually finishing 37th. The No. 1 car was looking really good before the accident, so there's no doubt that McMurray will view this race as a missed opportunity that could cost him dearly in the final Chase.
The future is much brighter for Keselowski. With two wins to his name, he's guaranteed a top-16 place, and if he continues driving like this, he will in fact become the title favorite, if he isn't already.