Mar 9, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT
On a somber day for the Ford Motor Company, Brad Keselowski gave the Blue Oval camp a reason to smile.
Keselowski went on to claim his first career Sprint Cup victory on the 1.5-mile Vegas oval, which enabled him to pull within one point of Earnhardt for the Sprint Cup championship lead going into next weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The victory also came hours after William Clay Ford, the director emeritus of the Ford Motor Company and owner/chairman of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, passed away at the age of 88 from pneumonia.
As a native of Rochester Hills, Michigan – not far from the manufacturer’s world headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn – Keselowski is aware of the impact Mr. Ford had on his community.
“He’s a big deal where I’m from in Detroit,” he said to Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “We want to say our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
But while he paid tribute to Mr. Ford, Keselowski was also thrilled to have virtually ensured his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after failing to qualify for the postseason last year.
Shortly after the final restart with 42 laps to go, Keselowski found himself battling Carl Edwards (who, along with Earnhardt, had stayed out on that previous yellow) for second before managing to get past the fellow Ford driver for the position.
That enabled him to go after Earnhardt, who had been told by crew chief Steve Letarte that he was likely to come up narrowly short on fuel.
“Carl Edwards helped me out there – he gave me a little break so I could go run down the 88 and that’s what we needed for a Ford to win,” Keselowski said. “We needed to put pressure on Dale and not let him get into fuel save mode, because you could tell he was getting close.”
With four laps remaining, Keselowski briefly took the lead from Earnhardt on the inside of Turn 1 but lost it back one turn later as Earnhardt got a great run off the high line.
Earnhardt pulled out to a half-second lead by the time the white flag came out. But unfortunately for him and Letarte, the latter’s prediction proved correct.
“We weren’t gonna run first or second had we not stayed out on that strategy,” said Earnhardt, who coasted home for the runner-up finish. “We knew we were a lap short and tried to save as much as we could. We got it to half a lap [short] and it ran out off of [Turn] 2 there.
“We took the gamble and didn’t win the race but it still worked in our favor to run second. It gave us a chance to win. It sucks to lose like that but we can’t let that be a negative. We gotta go to Bristol and try to win there, and the only way to be productive is to be positive.”
Paul Menard put together a stout run for Richard Childress Racing, finishing third for his best finish since his third-place run back in October 2012 at Kansas Speedway.
But don’t expect Menard to celebrate Vegas-style as he has very important business to attend to back home in North Carolina: The birth of his first child.
“Daytona was really good for us and we struggled at Phoenix but these guys never gave up,” said Menard, who recorded his third consecutive Top-10 at Las Vegas.
“The car was really good on long runs. On Thursday, we had a test day and we were really good on race trim. We had no speed at all in qualifying trim, but we went back to race trim and it was fast again…It’s something we can definitely build on for mile-and-a-half [tracks].”
Pole sitter Joey Logano recorded his second straight fourth-place finish, while Edwards went on to round out the Top 5.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Kobalt 400 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway
1) Brad Keselowski
2) Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3) Paul Menard
4) Joey Logano
5) Carl Edwards
6) Jimmie Johnson
7) Ryan Newman
8) Kasey Kahne
9) Jeff Gordon
10) Matt Kenseth
11) Kyle Busch
12) Denny Hamlin
13) Brian Vickers
14) Martin Truex Jr.
15) Jamie McMurray
16) Austin Dillon
17) Jeff Burton
18) A.J. Allmendinger
19) Kyle Larson
20) Trevor Bayne
21) Danica Patrick
22) Greg Biffle
23) Clint Bowyer
24) Marcos Ambrose
25) Aric Almirola
26) Kurt Busch
27) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
28) Casey Mears
29) Michael Annett
30) David Gilliland
31) Justin Allgaier
32) David Ragan
33) Tony Stewart
34) Reed Sorenson
35) Ryan Truex
36) Cole Whitt
37) Alex Bowman
38) Timmy Hill
39) Travis Kvapil
40) Parker Kligerman
41) Kevin Harvick
42) Josh Wise
43) Michael McDowell
Apr 17, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT
Ricky Taylor, Bill Auberlen secure pole positions for Round 3 of TUDOR Championship season in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Some good banter between Simon Pagenaud and Will Power occurs during post-practice press conference, as the two laugh off their contact here last year.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT
Power leads second practice in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Five in a row for the McLaren junior driver as he starts the 2015 season in style.
Apr 17, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Ferrari’s long run pace suggests that Mercedes may not have it all its own way on Sunday.
Apr 17, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT
More from INDYCAR has been released regarding aero kit updates.
Apr 17, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Red Bull Global Rallycross rolls out a series of announcements for media day, Thursday in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT
Scott Dixon on top in opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
A mixed day for both Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen during practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Apr 17, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Williams usually reserves its pace for Saturday, but Valtteri Bottas bucked the trend in Bahrain on Friday.
Apr 17, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT
Briton pleased with Mercedes work following practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.
Apr 17, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
He’s not the race defending champion, but as the most recent Long Beach winner still in the IndyCar field, Takuma Sato is indeed one to watch this weekend.
Apr 17, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT
A busy night for the stewards in Bahrain due to two incidents at the end of FP2 on Friday.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:32 PM EDT
Rocky Moran Jr. to make IndyCar debut this weekend with Dale Coyne Racing in a last-minute fill-in role for Carlos Huertas.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT
Normal service is resumed in FP2 as Mercedes dominates proceedings, but Ferrari proves that it could be in the running for the race win on race day.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Picking a winner from the Team Penske quartet is always a challenge, but Simon Pagenaud has his best shot yet to break through this weekend.
Apr 17, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Max Chilton reflects on his new dual role with Carlin in Indy Lights, and a bit on his Nissan LMP1 role as well.
Apr 17, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT
Can Mercedes strike back in FP2? Or will Ferrari continue to lead the way in Bahrain?
Apr 17, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Finnish driver delighted with how things are going at Maranello in 2015, but says his future is down to the team.
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