It was a crazy day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Brad Keselowski worked through 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts to score the victory in Sunday afternoon’s Kobalt 400. In the process, he became the third different winner in as many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races.
Here are four keys to Keselowski’s victory, the 18th of his career and the first in Team Penske’s 50th anniversary season:
4. Stay clean on pit road -- Pole-sitter Kurt Busch led the first 32 laps, but on the NASCAR-mandated competition caution, Busch was caught speeding in section four entering pit road. Busch was sent to the tail end of the longest line and had to restart 35th. He never led another lap.
Keselowski got a pit-road speeding penalty, too, but he was able to overcome it in scoring his first victory of the year and 18th of his career.
3. Survive the weather -- Rarely has any race seen such bizarre weather at this one did. Not only were there high winds, there were a couple of huge dust storms and a late-race rain shower. All the weather challenged drivers and teams alike.
“I got blown into (Turn 3) one time pretty hard and almost took the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) out,” said Ryan Blaney, who finished an excellent sixth place. “That would have been terrible. It was brutal.”
“I guess that's the wild, wild west, right?” added runner-up Logano. “It was dusty, rainy, windy, crazy. It made for a great race.”
2. Take care of your tires -- Keselowski passed Kyle Busch with six laps to go in large part because Busch’s right-front tire was worn out, allowing Keselowski to run him down in the closing laps. Busch gave it a tremendous effort, but his car was worn out, and he fell to fourth place. Behind Keselowski was his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson, who passed Busch at the line.
“He had a really good short run car but it fell off on the long run,” Keselowski said of Kyle Busch. “That is part of this new (aero) package. Some are good on short runs and some are good on long runs and we had a really good long run car today.”
1. Gamble on track position -- The top two finishers surprised the rest of the field when they chose not to pit after a caution on Lap 199 for contact between Kyle Larson and Regan Smith. That put Logano and Keselowski out front, and although the dropped back briefly, Keselowski drove to the front and took Logano with him. Austin Dillon also gambled on track position and wound up with a top-five finish.
“I think that call was the right call,” said Logano. “It got us back up there.We had four tires on our car from the pit stop before, which put us back to sixth or seventh. When everyone pitted and put lefts or rights back on, we were on fairly equal tires, but we had our track position back, we were up there in the lead.I think the way we called the race was the right strategy, for sure.”