March 19, 2012 | By Mike Hembree - SPEED.com
Special K Has Special Day
Courtesy of Speed.com
There were no fuel pickup problems – or timing line issues – Sunday for Brad Keselowski.
Special K scored his first win of the Sprint Cup season Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, taking control of the Food City 500 in the final hundred laps and putting Dodge in victory lane for the first time this season.
Keselowski, who battled fuel pressure problems last week, outgunned Matt Kenseth during an extended battle for the lead with 111 laps to go and led the rest of the way. He led a total of 232 laps, a career high.
The victory was Keselowski’s second straight at Bristol, where he took advantage of pit-road timing-line spacing to win last fall. NASCAR added more timing lines this year to eliminate the advantage of some pits at Bristol.
“There was some talk on Twitter about the win last fall,” Keselowski said. “It feels so good to just prove it here today in the spring race. Matt raced me hard, and I raced him hard. We rubbed a little bit, but that’s good racing.”
Completing the top five was the Michael Waltrip Racing trio of Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and surprise Brian Vickers.
The event had several long strings of green-flag racing, but there were a few notable incidents.
One involved Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as they raced side-by-side for sixth place in the second half of the race.
Earnhardt Jr.’s car tapped Gordon’s in the driver side, causing Gordon’s left rear tire to pop. That sent Gordon into the wall and into the garage area.
“I think we bumped more than we should have,” Gordon said. “We definitely didn’t hit in the right location. We didn’t hit that hard. We were a little too tight, and he was pretty good on the restart. I know it wasn’t intentional, but it certainly ruined our day.”
Earnhardt Jr. admitted the incident was his fault.
The race’s first big crash occurred on lap 23, forcing several contenders to the garage.
Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith and Keselowski were racing in a pack. Kahne passed Smith and then drove up the track, where Smith tapped his car, sending Kahne into a slide in front of traffic. Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were swept into the crash.
Keselowski emerged from the wreck area with no significant damage.
The race produced a grand comeback for Vickers, running the first of what is scheduled to be a six-race schedule with Michael Waltrip Racing. Vickers led 125 of the first 375 laps and built a lead of several seconds.
Keselowski was in front with 17 laps to go when the day’s fifth – and final – caution flew after Tony Stewart slapped the wall.
Keselowski and Kenseth stayed on the track to keep the top two positions, while most of their challengers pitted for fresh tires. Among those was Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose shot at a top-five run was spoiled when he was nabbed for speeding as he entered the pits. He was sent to the rear of the field, and he finished 15th.
The relative lack of cautions allowed the race to be run in only two hours and 51 minutes. Only 15 cars finished on the lead lap.
Point leader Greg Biffle led 41laps but finished 13th. He kept the point lead and is nine in front of Kevin Harvick heading to race five in California.
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