Brad Keselowski won his second race in his last three starts at Kentucky Speedway when rain halted the Nationwide Feed The Children 300 after 170 of the scheduled 200 laps Friday night.
It was the first rain-shortened race in any of NASCAR’s top three series at the track, which opened in 2000, and it also was the first such victory of Keselowski’s career.
“I certainly didn’t want to win it in a rain-shortened way, but I felt like we could have won it either way,” said Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion who also won last year’s Cup race at Kentucky and finished second in Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225.
“This car was phenomenal, and the execution from the team was phenomenal,” Keselowski said after his 22nd win in 197 Nationwide starts. “It’s one of the rare instances where as a driver you know you have everything going for you team-wise and car-wise that you just think to yourself, ‘Boy, I hope I don’t screw this up.’ ”
Keselowski, who started 19th, led 54 of the 170 laps, including the final 14 after passing Elliott Sadler in Turn 4 of Lap 156.
Sadler finished second, while Matt Crafton, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch, who led a race-high 74 laps, rounded out the top five.
“We didn’t manage to qualify where we were looking for, and I’ll take the blame for that,” Keselowski’s crew chief Jeremy Bullins said. “I’m not very good as this qualifying deal. But once the race started he looked like he was making his way through the field pretty well and we just tried to stay ahead of the race track.”
Thursday afternoon Keselowski talked about how much Kentucky Speedway suits his style, and with a runner-up finish in the trucks and the Nationwide win, he will carry plenty of confidence into the defense of his Quaker State 400 title tonight.
“Winning last year’s Cup race and winning today is great, and with a decent finish (Thursday night) I have as much momentum as I know how to have short of winning yesterday going into (tonight),” he said.
Pole sitter Austin Dillon, who won both Nationwide races at Kentucky last year, finished sixth, while points leader Regan Smith ended up 11 laps off the pace in 30th for his second consecutive disappointing outing.
Smith had a 58-point lead going into last week’s race at Road America, where he finished 32nd.
Today there are eight other drivers within 55 points of Smith, with Sam Hornish sitting just eight back in second place.
Friday also marked the start of the Dash 4 Cash program, where the top four Nationwide-eligible drivers will compete against each other next week at Daytona with the highest finisher of the four taking home a $100,000 bonus.
Those four are Sadler, Vickers, Dillon and Kyle Larson, who placed seventh.
“I’m really looking forward to Daytona,” Vickers said. “Of all the places to go into for the first Dash 4 Cash, I think it’s the best and the worst. There’s a chance we could finish 30th and win this thing.”
The top four Nationwide-eligible finishers at Daytona will race for another $100,000 the following week at Chicago, and that pattern will continue for four races, culminating at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
If the same driver wins each of the first three $100,000 prizes and then wins the race at Indianapolis outright, he will collect a $1 million bonus.