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Keselowski edges Junior on last lap in Las Vegas

Keslowski Wins Again At Las Vegas




LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew he probably didn't have enough fuel to finish. Being in Vegas, he decided to gamble anyway.

And when Earnhardt's tank went bust on the final lap, Brad Keselowski was right there to clean up.

Keselowski surged ahead when Earnhardt ran out of fuel, claiming a dramatic victory Sunday in the NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt's Chevy sputtered and slowed out of the second turn, and Keselowski roared past him on the backstretch in his Penske Ford for the first weekend sweep in his career. Keselowski followed up Saturday's Nationwide Series victory with his first Las Vegas Cup win, doing it in exhilarating fashion against the friend and mentor who gave him his first big break in racing.

"That's what you live for as a driver, at least I do," Keselowski said. "Those moments where you're side by side, and you lay it all out on the racetrack and bring back the car with the tires smoking, engine smoking, and you're worn out inside because you gave it all you had. It was one of those races there at the end."

Keselowski knew all about the fuel shortage faced by Earnhardt and Carl Edwards, who both made their final pit stops about 10 laps before him. So Keselowski decided to force the issue, getting around Edwards and pushing for the lead so Earnhardt would be forced to abandon his conservative, fuel-saving lines.

"I felt like we could run him down," Keselowski said about the driver who put him in his first Nationwide ride. "He was going to have to burn fuel to keep me behind him. At that point, it was just a matter of whether a yellow (flag) came out or not, because it was just a ticking time bomb. It worked in our favor today."

Earnhardt finished second and didn't regret it, secure in his overall position thanks to the new rules in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, which puts increased emphasis on wins. Still, Earnhardt and his Hendrick Motorsports ride were just a few ounces of fuel shy of earning their second victory in three races to start the season.

When Earnhardt sat down for his post-race news conference in front of two cans of his sponsor's energy drink, he picked up one can wistfully: "That's all we needed, just 16 ounces."

The Daytona 500 champion was disappointed, but not discouraged after his spectacular start to the NASCAR season. He also finished second last week at Phoenix.

"We weren't supposed to make it," Earnhardt said. "We were trying to save as much as we can and make it work, but we knew we were short. We wouldn't have finished second if we didn't have that strategy."

Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, virtually assured himself of a spot in the Chase after missing it entirely last season.

"It's just such a reliever for everyone on the team to get that win in early, and be able to enjoy the races and opportunities that we have instead of being stressed out about them," Keselowski said. "You know, I think if anything it actually lends itself to better racing."

Earnhardt also praised NASCAR's new Chase setup, which allowed him to take a fuel gamble in Vegas after winning already this season. Additional wins are worth bonus points in the Chase, while a second-place finish doesn't help his position much - hence the motivation to go for broke on an empty tank.

"I think the new format is definitely is showing it has tons of positives," Earnhardt said. "It's better as far as entertainment for our sport. It gives us freedom, and it's nice to have that freedom to do the things that we did today, even though we knew our odds weren't good. We really shouldn't have made it, and we didn't, but we got to try because of the new system."

With his wife due to give birth at any minute, Paul Menard finished third in his Richard Childress Racing Chevy in front of Keselowski's teammate, pole-sitter Joey Logano. Edwards was fifth in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford, and Earnhardt teammate Jimmie Johnson came in sixth.

The Las Vegas race is the first of 11 on 1.5-mile tracks, and NASCAR spent much of the offseason working on ways to improve the racing on these tracks with a new aerodynamics package and other improvements. The changes resulted in 23 drivers breaking the track speed record during qualifying, but the racing wasn't particularly thrilling until that final lap.

Keselowski and Earnhardt are the only two drivers to finish in the top five in each of the season's first three races, and they dueled down the stretch after Earnhardt passed him for the lead on a restart with 42 laps to go. Earnhardt had gone to the pits on the 211th lap and attempted to stick it out.

Keselowski was in fine form after his third-place finish in Phoenix last week without crew chief Paul Wolfe, who had returned home for his child's birth. Keselowski also finished third at Daytona.

Keselowski is the second driver to win both Vegas races in the same weekend, joining Jeff Burton in 2000.

Join the discussion

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t.drum March 10 2014 at 3:13 PM

He won ONLY because Jr. ran out of gas. Keselowski is an arrogant punk.

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ataylormark March 10 2014 at 8:05 AM

Codfish, perhaps you should have watched the race. By not pitting he finishes second. He pits he finishes 7th or 8th. Perhaps you should gain a little racing knowledge before making these type of comments. Now who's the moron?

Flag Reply +3 rate up
lenorad88 March 10 2014 at 10:29 AM

66,000$ for last place.i wish my job paid this well.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Pllc15 March 10 2014 at 10:56 AM

I have nothing to contribute other than to say I was thrilled to watch my first auto race live at the Las Vegas Speedway yesterday. The event reminds me of basketball when it gets exciting in the last few minutes of the race. The track is 1.5 miles in circumferance and each car roughly circumvents the track in less than 30 seconds. The noise level is deafening in combination with the smell of rubber can be addictive to the senses.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Mark Pllc15 March 10 2014 at 11:43 AM

I have been addicted for 35+ years. Once your hooked your hooked for good!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
mbrheljr Mark March 10 2014 at 11:53 AM

Amen, Mark. I haven't raced since 1974, but remain addicted...

Flag 0 rate up
jamaskitz March 10 2014 at 11:02 AM

you lose some and win some

Flag Reply +4 rate up
mbrheljr March 10 2014 at 11:50 AM

I'm a #48 (Jimmie Johnson) fan and have been since he started racing in NASCAR

Us old motocrossers need to back each other's play. :)

But, when JJ doesn't win, I pull for Jr.

One of my buddies in FL works for his dealership.

So, point of clarification here.

Jr. lost because he RAN OUT OF GAS on the last lap.

And, he still finished in 2nd place.

This article makes it sound like BK actually beat Jr b/c he drove better or had a faster car.

To repeat, Earnhardt RAN OUT OF GAS.

I respectfully suggest the reporter watch the damned race next time or defer to someone who actually understands racing...

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
rosiesgal29 mbrheljr March 10 2014 at 1:02 PM

yes he ran out of gas which is a real shame

Flag Reply +1 rate up
wrascil March 11 2014 at 11:54 AM

Another ho hum nap-car weekend... this is a special note to bill fartz to pull he's head out of he'z azz the new qualifying bites it.
I do understand it is a lot easier to put dank patrick and grand son awful dillon on the pole but the fans are not that stupid they know those cars can not qualify on their own and would not have been in the daytona race unless they were on the pole...
ONE FINGER SALUTE to nap-car cfo and the entire competition committee for a thoroughly F'ed up wwf style product

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Larry March 10 2014 at 2:34 PM

If Junior would have stopped for gas, he would have finished out of the top ten, so it was the right move.
Both Penske drivers are punks and I'm not liking their doing well. Last year was much better.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Hi, Patti Larry March 10 2014 at 3:06 PM

Larry, I have to agree with your assessment of the Penske team. Those two are the drivers I least want to see win. Punks? Yup!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
PaPa Joe March 10 2014 at 9:55 AM

They had no choice but to go for it. Great finish anyway! This is Junior's year!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
wcannon46 March 10 2014 at 6:10 AM

Go Jr! What a start this year for you.....

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
procompdynamics wcannon46 March 10 2014 at 6:43 AM

New points system designed just for him

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
rlroaddog procompdynamics March 10 2014 at 8:35 AM

how can u say that

Flag +1 rate up
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