Brad Keselowski warmed up for his first-ever run in the Chase by being one of only two Cup championship contenders to double-time it at Chicagoland, and he made his intent to win clear when he wrenched the lead from polesitter Brian Scott on lap 2.
After that, Keselowski ran 158 of the 200-lap Dollar General 300 Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in the lead on his way to his third Nationwide win of the year and the 15th of his career.
“It's a great booster to get a win before going into the Chase,” Keselowski said in victory lane. “It was great execution today. That's what it takes to win right now. Our Dodges are fast, and today we just executed really well and did what it takes.”
He ran the last 30 laps with up to a 10s lead over the rest of the field which ended with only 10 cars left on the lead lap after Keselowski's charge. The nearest to Keselowski at the end was the only other Chase contender in the field, Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards, who had been the only driver able to oust Keselowski from the lead for any period of time during the race.
"Congrats to Brad," said a soundly beaten Edwards. "He was doing a really good job ... I think our car was fast enough. I would have really liked the opportunity to go up there and race Brad. We just didn't get that caution."
Edwards' own chances of victory slipped away when he ran out of fuel on lap 123 after attempting to push his fuel to the limit before pitting. "We just had a little trouble there on pit road and they told me to pit," he said. "I was coming down the back straightaway and the car ran out of fuel so it took us a little longer in the pits. The guys did a really good job of keeping it running and got us back out there."
That glitch cost him the lead that he had taken on lap 90, after Keselowski had become entangled in slow traffic. "I'm going to take every one of those freakin' lapped cars and wreck 'em!" Keselowski vented over his team radio after getting stuck behind one of the back markers, opening up an opportunity for Edwards to make a pass.
Edwards didn't think that the traffic had been unusually slow or unhelpful during the night, however. "I don't say much about that. I have been
that slower traffic, I have had days like that," he said. "They are actually working harder and their cars just aren't handling the way they want. It really doesn't matter how fast or slow they are going, just that you stay in a lane and give warning."
The race saw only three caution periods: Ryan Truex spun on the backstretch on lap 7, there was a debris caution on lap 46, and a final caution on lap 64 when Kasey Kahne slapped the wall. Sam Hornish Jr. scraped the wall late in the race on lap 190 but was able to continue without bringing out a caution and ended up in fifth place.
With the top four in the Nationwide points all finishing in the top ten at Chicagoland, there was no change in the championship standings with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. continuing to lead Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson and Aric Almirola.
Having taken such an easy victory on Saturday, Keselowski will be hoping that he can repeat this dominant form for the opening race in the 2011 Sprint Cup Chase which is on Sunday afternoon from 2pm ET (7pm BST).
"It is always good to win and perform well and good to know that you can," said Edwards when asked whether success today was a good sign for Sunday. "[But] it's definitely two different series. I can't tell you how many times I have run so well on Saturday and struggled on Sunday because it is so tough ... I wouldn't be surprised if he runs really well tomorrow or we do the same."
"There's always the confidence, that's the biggest thing," offered Keselowski, and right now the Penske driver is brimming with it.
Full race, qualifying and practice