“It’s a game of inches” is one of the most overused sports cliches in existence, but that was literally the case Thursday at the Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Brad Keselowski captured his first-ever NASCAR Truck Series victory in 62 tries by holding off a late charge from Darrell Wallace Jr. for a 0.776 second victory. Wallace was directly on Keselowski’s bumper with a mere two laps remaining, but it was ultimately to no avail.
Wallace discussed his charge, according to The Associated Press, via USA Today: "I try to race everybody with respect. I was sitting there in the truck after the race just trying to replay everything and if I could have done anything different. I would have had to wreck him to get by him."
Keselowski and his team celebrated the narrow victory afterward:
We know Wallace and Keselowski dueled it out at the end, but here’s a look at the entire top 10:
|Top 10 finishers at Bristol|
|2||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Toyota|
|3||Ron Hornaday Jr.||Chevrolet|
|6||John Hunter Nemechek||Toyota|
Interestingly, Keselowski’s win made him part of the first-ever father-son duo to notch victories at a NASCAR Truck Series event. His father Bob Keselowski won a Truck Series event in 1997 at Richmond.
Brad Keselowski shared his father’s reaction after Thursday’s race:
While the drama at the end came down to Wallace and Keselowski, it was really a two-man competition for much of the race between the eventual winner and Kyle Busch. Busch, who was the defending champion and sports a track record 16 NASCAR national series wins at Bristol, led three times for 81 laps.
However, Keselowski passed Busch with 75 laps remaining, and Busch then crashed with 22 laps left. He ultimately finished in 24th place, but he was the only other driver to lead during the race.
Keselowski led three times for 119 laps.
Jay Pennell of Fox Sports described the heated competition between the racers:
Keselowski's battle with the KBM trucks was fierce from the drop of the green flag, as he wasted no time making his way to the front from his fourth starting spot.
With Busch starting on the pole, the pair racing hard for the lead in the opening laps, with Keselowski getting the advantage as they worked through heavy lap traffic.
Busch was able to win the race off pit road on the first stop of the day during the competition caution on Lap 50. On the ensuing restart, Keselowski and Busch picked up where they left off, battling side-by-side for the lead lap after lap.
Busch was able to hold the lead on the restart with 82 laps to go, but a bobble by the No. 51 Toyota allowed the No. 19 of Keselowski to get by on the bottom on Lap 125.
In addition to tallying his first-ever Truck Series win and joining his father with such a distinction, Keselowski also became the 25th driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s national series (Cup, Nationwide and Trucks).
While Keselowski certainly made headlines with his impressive accomplishments Thursday, fans are likely more interested in what impact the result had on the current standings. Here is a look at the entire top 10, with Johnny Sauter leading the way. Sauter finished in fifth place Thursday.
|3||Ron Hornaday Jr.||470|
|5||Darrell Wallace Jr.||454|
Looking ahead, Sauter will be difficult to catch in the points race. Yes, he is in first place, but his top-five finish Thursday continued a recent stretch of momentum that is encouraging to his fans.
He was fresh off his victory in Michigan, qualified seventh for the race in Bristol and parlayed that into a top-five finish. What’s more, Thursday’s race was the 13th of 22 races in the Camping World Truck Series, so the other drivers will quickly run out of time to catch him if he continues to impress on the track.
Despite Sauter's grip on the points lead, Thursday was Keselowski’s day.
Follow me on Twitter: