Mar 8, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Brad Keselowski may have had the dominant car in today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but his drive to the checkered flag was anything but easy.
The 2012 Sprint Cup champion overshot his pit box during yellow-flag stops with around 50 laps to go and dropped from second to fifth.
Then, after charging back to the lead off a restart with 38 laps to go, his No. 22 Team Penske Ford began losing power in the last handful of laps – just as Vegas native Kyle Busch was charging towards him and just as the two were heading into heavy lapped traffic.
But Keselowski persevered and was able to keep Busch in his rear view mirror to claim a nail-biter in the Boyd Gaming 300 at LVMS, his first Nationwide win on the 1.5-mile oval.
“We found everything we could to make it hard,” Keselowski told ESPN in Victory Lane. “…These races aren’t getting any easier to win. I drove as hard as I could every lap knowing that Kyle was coming, especially at the end there. We were having some troubles with the engine there and I knew it was just a matter of time before he caught me.
“I was just trying to get through as much traffic as I could and extend that [gap] and counting down the laps. It felt good that everything worked out in the end.
Meanwhile, Busch was visibly disappointed with the near-miss after what had been a tough weekend for him and the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team.
Busch was forced to go to a backup car after crashing his primary in practice. He was still able to qualify seventh but was then sent to the rear of the field when NASCAR determined his team had made an unapproved adjustment to his car after the machines had been impounded after qualifying; the team had discovered a frayed alternator belt.
An undaunted Busch roared through the field, cracking the Top 10 within the first 20 laps. He would later find the lead during the race’s middle stages.
But on the aforementioned restart with 38 laps to go, Busch (on the outside lane) was jumped for first and second by both Keselowski and Chase Elliott. He was able to get back to P2 shortly after but while he was able to reel in Keselowski, he couldn’t get past him.
“I don’t know what caused us to lose the lead,” Busch said. “That was unfortunate. I think that was the race. Our car was super fast on the long run when guys would get their tires hot and use up everything. You could see guys hang with us for about 10-20 [laps] and from about 30 [laps] on, it was me better than the rest.
“The best motor won today, that’s for sure. Probably the best car – [Brad] was really good. But I don’t know. That’s all we had.”
Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson made contact early with the wall and had visible front-end damage on his No. 42 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet but still managed to finish third.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the current Sprint Cup points leader, was fourth and his JR Motorsports employee, NNS rookie Chase Elliott, finished fifth to claim his first NNS career Top-5.
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