Brad Keselowski ran down Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the last lap for the victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the 17th Annual Kobalt 400 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. With the win Keselowski swept the weekend in the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, making him the only other driver to make the Las Vegas Motor Speedway sweep in the same weekend since 2000 when Jeff Burton did it while driving for Roush-Fenway scoring a milestone win #100 and #101.
This is Keselowski’s 11th victory in 164 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Keselowski has his first victory and third top 10 finish for the 2014 season.
“Carl Edwards helped me out there, he gave me a little bit of a break, so I could go run down the 88, and that’s what we needed for a Ford to win,” Keselowski said in victory lane. “We needed to put pressure on Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and not let him into fuel-saving mode.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s team gambled in Las Vegas during the final caution with 47 laps remaining for the 267 lap race, the #88 team opted for Earnhardt Jr. to stay in the top spot on the track.
Earnhardt Jr. entered the last lap leading with Keselowski glued to his bumper as Earnhardt Jr.’s #88 Mountain Dew Kickstart Chevrolet started sputtering for fuel on the back straightaway, Keselowski’s #2 Miller-Lite Ford went high on the track and soared passed Earnhardt Jr. for the win.
Earnhardt Jr. was left to coast across the finish line in second place, 1.5 seconds behind race winner Keselowski. Earnhardt finished second making this his third top two finish of the 2014 season.
“Running out of gas, that’s tough,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It’s no shock to us that we ran out. We knew we were short.”
The #88 team enjoys the luxury with the new rules package to push the boundaries after the victory for the season opener the Daytona 500. NASCAR’s new championship format, opens 16 available berths in the 10 race Chase to the Championship, the drivers with the most victories make the field first.
“It gives us freedom, and it’s nice to have that freedom to do the things that we did today,” Earnhardt Jr. said during the post race interview. “Even though we knew our odds weren’t good. We really shouldn’t have made it, and we didn’t, but we got to try because of the new system.”
“I can say one thing: Our math is pretty good,” Steve Letarte, crew chief for the #88 said. “We have a first, a second and a second. I’d say we’re doing OK to start this deal off”
Keselowski finished third for both the Daytona 500 and at Phoenix International before today’s victory in the third race of the season, thus making a better start than to his 2013 season where Keselowski missed the chance to defend his 2012 Sprint Cup Series championship title.