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Nationwide: Keselowski puts Penske on top

A variety of pit stop strategies under the caution shook up the running order somewhat, with Logano in charge of the restart on lap 131 but quickly losing out to Kasey Kahne for the lead, pursued by Brian Scott, Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler and Kevin Harvick making up the rest of the top six. The green was a relatively short affair before a new caution came out on lap 138 when Josh Richards got loose and spun in turn 1, leaving the hapless Jason Bowles no where to go but right into him and pile drive them both straight into the wall. Bowles tried to limp back to pit lane, but the car was leaking fuel and caught fire, forcing him to park at the entrance to pit road - delaying pit stops and extending the caution.

When the pits did finally open on lap 143, there was the decision about whether to come in: it was still on the absolute limit to make it all the way to the end of the 200 lap race without at least one further caution or pit stop. Most came in, but leaders Keselowski and Kahne were unwilling to surrender their positions quite so easily. Justin Allgaier did likewise and moved up to third ahead of Logano, Harvick, Busch, Dillon and Hornish Jr.

The restart only lasted a few seconds before Brian Scott got loose on an untreated oil patch and spun coming out of turn 2, lightly tapping the back of Cole Whitt's car and sending them both into nose-first impacts on the inside wall along the backstretch.

Racing resumed on lap 155 with Keselowski pulling away at the front, and Kyle Busch moving past Kahne and Allgaier for second place a couple of laps later. The rest of the top ten consisted of Hamlin, Harvick, Sadler, Hornish, Logano and Patrick, and the dominating factor was emerging as fuel conservation: who could make it to the end if there were no more cautions? It seemed a big ask for the two drivers - Keselowski and Kahne - who hadn't pitted under the last caution and who now had to make their gas last 70 laps.

Hamlin - despite his early handling problems that had left him a lap down for much of the first stage of the race - certainly had no fuel concerns, and moved inexorably up the running order, finally moving past Kyle Busch for second place with ten to go.

"We were good on long runs, just didn't have a lot of front-line speed," said Hamlin. "I have to get better at our race-day adjustments. I just feel like I'm sending our crew chief off in the wrong direction at the start of these races."

Keselowski was now too far away to catch, but moving up into second had put Hamlin in the ideal position to benefit should Keselowski prove to have misjudged his fuel conservation and run dry in the final seconds. Unfortunately for Hamlin, Keselowski had it nailed to perfection: he cruised past the white flag and then did one more leisurely lap to claim the chequered flag, even having enough gas left in the tank to carry out the celebratory burn-outs once he'd picked up the stars and stripes.

"The Dodge has been known for having a bit of a fuel-mileage advantage over the last season and a half," said Keselowski after the race. "When you have an opportunity to maximize your advantage, that's what you've got to do."

Busch will be happy that his fledgling eponymous Nationwide team finally seem to have nailed their early season teething problems on intermediate distance tracks. He held on to third place ahead of Harvick, while Sadler had over a second in hand over Logano to seal fifth place. That was a crucial result for Sadler, who closes to within 13pts of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the top of the Nationwide points standings: earlier in the week, Sadler had been docked 6pts after his #2 car was found to have failed post-race technical inspection at Iowa last week for not meeting the minimum ride height; crew chief Luke Lambert was also fined $10,000 for the infraction.

But over in victory lane, Keselowski had delivered the first Penske win of the weekend, and now it was over to his stablemates in the IZOD IndyCar Series Team Penske to see whether Messrs Briscoe, Power or Castroneves can pull off the next stage of the weekend's success ahead of Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race back at Charlotte in the evening.




Related Pictures

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Joey Logano, driver of the #20 GameStop/Hitman Absolution Toyota, and Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/National Wild Turkey Foundation Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/HHP - Pool/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #33 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops/National Wild Turkey Foundation Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday in Concord, N.C. (Picture Credit: Jamey Price/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Bowles, driver of the #81 American Majority Toyota, collides with Josh Richards, driver of the #39 NSW Kids Ford, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for third position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Truex, Jr. is third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (left) congratulates his son Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. This will mark Chase Elliott`s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane with girlfriend Paige White after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Toyota, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 FVP/Menards Chevrolet SS finishes in fourth place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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