Keselowski Earns First Win at Daytona, 100th for Penske

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. – We have a new sheriff in town when it comes to restrictor plate racing, and his name is Brad Keselowski.

After leading 115 of the 160 laps on Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway, the 2012 champion grabbed his third checkered flag of the season, fifth in a restrictor plate race, and first at the World Center of Racing.

“I don’t care if it’s not the 500. It’s Daytona,” Keselowski said to NBC in victory lane after surviving an overtime finish due to the caution coming out with five laps remaining. “This is huge. I love this place, and here we are in victory lane […] Joey Logano was a huge part of this today. We had two great cars here with Team Penske and worked together really well. Joey has won [at Daytona] and he’s really a pro, especially on that restart. “

To make the victory even sweeter, the win was the 100th in NASCAR for Roger Penske, who’s been a mainstay in the sport for the better part of four decades.

“I would just say that the 100th in NASCAR is something special,” the team owner said following the race in victory lane to NBC. “To do it here on the Fourth of July weekend, it’s amazing. But it’s a byproduct of all the good people we have, and to me we’ve got to continue to remember that. I just think that [Keselowski crew chief] Paul [Wolfe] and the team, we lose more than we win in this business, and you’ve got to know how to deal with the downs and take advantage of the ups.”

“I think we’ve competed in multiple series, and I think we’re almost at 450 wins now, and we’re I think three or four away from 500 poles. Our goal is 500 and 500. This was the first step to get to 100 in NASCAR.” Penske’s next major goal in NASCAR? 200 wins.

Kyle Busch led 16 laps in the race, but ultimately finished second to the No. 2 Ford.

“[Keselowski] definitely just had way more maneuverability it seemed like than anybody, but especially than I did,” Busch told NBC. “I don’t know how he got the kind of run that he got (to make the decisive pass on lap 145), but when he got that run down the front stretch getting into turn 1 and was able to turn to the bottom, my car would be kind of loose doing that.”

“I never was in the right position when I had that big of a run in order to get the lead back. Really, it took a lot of guys ganging up and getting together in order to make a move on him. He was pretty smart about where he positioned his car on the race track, and I could see that, and I tried to do some of those same things, but, man, it just never really worked for me as good as he could handle it.”

Busch already has three wins in 2016 and has qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, along with Keselowski.

Trevor Bayne finished third, with Logano finishing fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounding out the top five. Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell finished in positions six through ten.

Some not-so-familiar names, like McDowell, as well as three Roush Fenway Racing drivers, scored top ten results. But where are the big names, like Harvick, Kenseth, Stewart, Johnson, Elliott, etc.? Look no further than “The Big One” that occurred on lap 90.

Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet got loose and was sent into Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet, triggering a 22-car pileup in turns one and two. Kevin Harvick was expecting the wreck to happen, as he was riding round in the back of the pack in hopes of avoiding the big accident that usually occurs. However, the No. 4 car was in the wrong place at the wrong time on Saturday evening at Daytona.

“You really think it’s going to happen from Lap 1,” said Harvick, who ended up finishing in 39th place. “It’s hard to make ground, so you have to be pretty aggressive when you start making ground. [We were] just kind of riding there, just maintaining until that next pit stop so we could get my car off the ground and then really start being aggressive. I really couldn’t be aggressive, and unfortunately, I was in the back of that front pack and ended up getting in the wreck.” Harvick maintained the series lead in the standings over Keselowski by 14 points.

The Sprint Cup Series heads to Sparta, Ky. (great name for a city, right?) for Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. The track underwent repaving and some other modifications in the offseason. Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the race.

On a personal note, my 20th birthday weekend at Daytona was fantastic. Although my driver didn’t come through, I enjoyed myself immensely and can’t wait to get back in February!