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Keselowski shines bright in Bristol night

Brad Keselowski continued his recent strong run of form, staying close to the front all night and perfectly timing his bid for the front after a late restart.
With some drivers, an almighty accident can shatter their confidence as well as their bodies. But with Brad Keselowski, his Road Atlanta testing smash and consequent broken ankle seems to have transformed him into a race-winning machine instead.

Having already won at Kansas at the start of June, Keselowski bounced back just days after his accident to win at Pocono in one of those comebacks that wins the hearts of even hardened hacks. But he wasn't stopping there, following it up with second at Watkins Glen and third at Michigan to send him shooting up the Sprint CUp championship points.

His run of good fortune has to stop sometime. But it certainly didn't stop at Saturday evening's Irwin Tools Night Race on the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway oval.

Ryan Newman had led the field to the green flag just before 8pm on Saturday evening before an estimated audience of 156,000. He was alongside Carl Edwards on the front row, with Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon starting immediately behind them at the start of 500 laps that would take almost three hours to complete.

Newman would lead only the first four laps for the whole night, before Jeff Gordon flexed his muscles and put the #24 into the front through the inside of turn 4 to lead the next 26 laps which included putting Andy Lally and Scott Speed, who had qualified the Whitney Motorsports #46 for the first time but who retired early with brake issues.

A debris caution put Lally back on the lead lap on lap 31 and also put Brad Keselowski into the lead for the first time at the restart after he won the first race off pit road of the night. Keselowski got loose after the green flag and handed the lead to Matt Kenseth who would go on to hold the position for the next 67 laps until the second caution of the night - also for debris - on lap 105, which was considerately timed for the next round of pit stops as well.

Jimmie Johnson won the race off pit road this time and led Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman to the green flag, but it was Jeff Gordon who immediately leapt into action and was challenging Keselowski for second within a lap. He found it tricky to complete the pass and had only just sealed the deal with Travis Kvapil's engine blew down the back straight on lap 128 to bring out the third caution of the night.

After this there was a lengthy 162 lap stint under green for drivers to settle into, which meant that a lot of big name drivers went a lap or more down thanks to the 15s laptime on a half mile oval. Kevin Harvick fell off the lead lap on lap 197, David Ragan and Kasey Kahne soon followed suit, and Tony Stewart (who had started at the back after a miserable qualifying) and Clint Bowyer were two laps down. By lap 233 only 20 cars remained on the lead lap.

Johnson had continued to lead until lap 183, but then Jeff Gordon proved too strong and got around the #48, which promptly slumped back to third behind Matt Kenseth as well. Gordon and Kenseth broke away from the pack and pulled out a 3s lead before the green flag pit stops cycled through just before the halfway point of the race.




Related Pictures

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Matt Kenseth races Brad Keselowski during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. [Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Brad Keselowski does donuts for fans at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. [Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Mark Martin bounces off the inside wall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. [Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images]
Brad Keselowski celebrates winning the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. [Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finishes in fifth place, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finishes in 33rd place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Gordon, who led for 87 laps,  was involved in a multi-car incident on the last lap. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS races to a third place finish with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finishes in fifth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS pulls into his pit on his way to a second place finish in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Percision Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, race three-wide during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Smoke pours from the #2 Miller Lite Ford, driven by Brad Keselowski, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Kellogg/Cheez-It Ford, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, and Ryan Reed, driver of the #16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Ford EcoBoost Ford, and Landon Cassill, driver of the #01 Flex Seal Chevrolet, race three-wide during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Tyler Reddick, driver of the #19 DrawTite Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, is interviewed in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Hendrick Motorsports team mates (left) Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet and (right) Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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