Brad Keselowski wins in Charlotte
CONCORD, N.C. -- Roger Penske really is serious about the Nationwide Series. Brad Keselowski's dominant first season with the famed car owner is proof.
Keselowski put Penske closer to his first NASCAR series title when he pulled away from Martin Truex Jr. on a late restart Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was Keselowski's fifth victory of the season and gave him a 450-point lead over Carl Edwards.
Needing Keselowski to finish only 26th or better in the final four races to clinch the title, Penske turned to crew chief Paul Wolfe after the race and reminded him about a conversation before the season. Wolfe wanted to know if Penske, best known for his open-wheel cars and Sprint Cup teams, was dedicated to the lower-tier Nationwide Series.
"I guess, Paul, we are, aren't we?" Penske said, smiling. "We continue to try to let you know that."
After some brief side-by-side racing with Truex on the restart with eight laps left, Keselowski pulled ahead and wasn't challenged. Penske teammate Justin Allgaier finished third, followed by Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer, who started on the pole but had a costly pit-road speeding penalty late.
"I've never been so disappointed to finish second, to be honest," Truex said. "We had a good car there in the middle of the race. The long green-flag runs were really good for us. Once we pitted and put that last set of tires on it was just a little bit too tight. Just couldn't quite clear Brad for the lead."
While Danica Patrick posted her best finish in her nine Nationwide races -- 21st although she was two laps down at the end -- Keselowski had little competition once Kyle Busch had handling problems after halfway through the race. Busch finished sixth and Edwards, closest to Keselowski in the standings, was 13th.
"That was awesome," said Keselowski, in his first full season with Penske. "Our car was really good."
Bowyer, who seemed to have the only car capable of competing with Busch early, was penalized for speeding on pit road with 42 laps left, dropping him to 16th.
Bowyer's penalty came during an odd caution to correct a scoring error.
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NASCAR acknowledged it mistakenly penalized Brian Scott for a missing lug nut. When they were all accounted for, NASCAR put out the caution flag and allowed Scott to regain his original position.
Keselowski didn't pit and took the lead on the restart -- his third lead of the race. He built a 1.5-second advantage before Scott wrecked and tore out a chunk of infield grass with 19 laps left to bring out another caution in the 200-lap race.
Keselowski earned his 11th career win and topped his four-victory season from a year ago.
Patrick continued her learning process.
Making her first start on the big track at Charlotte after running go-karts here as a teenager, Patrick vowed Thursday to be aggressive on the track, if needed. James Buescher wrecked her a week earlier at California to end her chances of a top-15 finish.
But Patrick never raced side-by-side with Buescher -- and was never a factor in the 300-mile race. She bumped the outside wall early on and kept control of her No. 7 Chevrolet, but she soon fell a lap down after green-flag pit stops.
"It seems like every time we have a chance to have a great finish we crash," Patrick said. "And every time we have a pretty average night we finish and we finish in the 20s."
The previous best Nationwide finish for Patrick, primarily an IndyCar driver, was 24th. She has struggled with the boxier stock cars.
"We did our best and we had some high points this weekend," she said. "That hasn't happened a lot of other times I've been to a track for the first time. We'll take the high points and take a non-crash home and learn from this new car this time."
Busch, who picked up his 12th series win of the year last week, had handling problems late in the race after dominating early.
Busch shot from sixth to first in 23 laps and led for much of the middle of the race until a series of green-flag pit stops put cars out of sequence. After briefly being a lap down, Busch moved to the front with 54 laps to go.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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