6/29/2013 9:00:00 AM Rain sends Keselowski splashing into victory lane Race halted 30 laps from end by downpour
Brad Keselowski (above 22 and below) makes what proved to be the race-winning pass on Elliot Sadler (11) before a rain storm halted Friday night’s Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway leaving Keselowski and Sadler with a one-two finish. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
SPARTA, Ky. - Brad Keselowski was unable to pull out a victory in the truck race on Thursday, but he more than made up for that with a win on Friday.
Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup series champion, passed Elliott Sadler on lap 156 and scored the win when the race was halted by rain eight laps later to claim the Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 at the Kentucky Speedway on Friday.
"I didn't want it to rain. I've never won a rain-shortened race and I didn't want tonight to be the first. I'd rather go out there and win the race under green," Keselowski said. "This Discount Tire Ford was awesome, awesome, awesome! This race team did a great job and I wanted to go out and earn this win but Mother Nature had other plans for us tonight. I can't say enough about Ford and this race team and the effort that these guys put in week-in and week-out."
Keselowski, who also won the Cup series event at Kentucky last year, started 19th but quickly worked his way through the field. By the time rain started to fall, he had the fastest car on the track.
"I've never been the best at setting up a car for qualifying," Keselowski's crew chief Jeremy Bullins said. "I get them ready to race."
A light rain began falling just as Keselowski made his final pass and the steadily got heavier. On lap 164, race officials parked the field and 23 minutes later called off the race.
A second-place finish to Ty Dillon in the Truck series race on Thursday ruined Keselowski's hopes at a triple-header sweep but he wasn't complaining.
"We had a great run here last year in winning the Cup race and winning here tonight gives us plenty of momentum going into tomorrow night's race," Keselowski said. "This car was phenomenal and this team was phenomenal and it was one of those rare instances when everything was going our way and all I am thinking to myself was, 'Don't screw this up.'"
Austin Dillon, Ty's older brother and winner of both Nationwide races at the Speedway last year, claimed the pole and led the first 18 laps. Despite that quick start, Dillon was unable to maintain that momentum and Cup regular Kyle Busch began closing in.
Busch appeared to have Thursday's truck race in hand before fading late to allow Ty Dillon to grab his second career win. Busch found the same fate on Friday.
Busch led a race-high 74 laps on three different occasions -the last on lap 98 - but it was Keselowski who passed him for the final time, ending a back-and-forth duel between the two Sprint Cup regulars that resulted in three lead changes in the span of 10 laps.
Busch ended up fifth, his second top five finish in as many days.
"I thought we had something really, really good early on, but (Keselowski) was taking his time coming through traffic and once he got there, he was just stellar," Busch said. "Obviously (he was) the best car, and was in practice as well."
Sadler stayed right on Keselowski's bumper to end up second. But like Busch, he wasn't sure he could have caught Keselowski had the race continued.
"As a racer, you always want to see a restart to get the opportunity to win the race, but Brad and those guys definitely had a strong car," Sadler said. "He got me loose when he was behind me and made a good pass, but it seemed like he was just saving his stuff a little bit in front of me."
Matt Crafton, who leads the Truck points standings, finished third in his first foray into the Nationwide series. Crafton started eighth and led eight laps in his initial race.
"This was the first time I have ever driven a Nationwide car and I have had a blast," Crafton said. "This Menards/Rheem dream car has been fun to drive today. I wish I would have had a little bit more on entry from these guys that ran in front of us."
Series points leader Regan Smith started 14th and struggled to a 30th-place finish, dropping his lead over Sam Hornish Jr. to just eight points. Hornish, who led one lap, finished ninth.
TODAY AT KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY
Noon - All Speedway Gates Open/Infield Fan Zone Opens
5:15 p.m. - Billy Currington Prerace Concert
6:55 p.m. - Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Prerace Celebration
7:30 p.m. - Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 (400 Miles/200 Laps)