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Keselowski shines bright in Bristol night

Truex denied that the two-tyre strategy had been much of a gamble, all things considered. "I don't think it was that big of a gamble, really. The position we were in, we had to do it," said Truex. "We took two the first stop of the race and that got us track position and we were able to maintain."

For his part, Jeff Gordon blamed lacklustre pit stops for failing to convert most laps led into a dominant win on the night. "It felt like we had the car to beat; but you know what, we just didn't get the position that we needed to on that last pit stop." He added meaningfully: "Pit road is an interesting place here."

"Robbed at Indy, and robbed here. Yeah, I'm tired of it," said Gordon's crew chief Alan Gustafson. Their pit box was the first one on the backstretch on the uniquely cramped infield area at Bristol leading to problems with getting in and out while allowing other savvy drivers to be able to speed with impunity if they knew were and how."

But he had enjoyed that epic battle with Truex in the closing laps: "It was an incredible battle! I know that there wasn't much of a race up there for first when Brad got out there with those four tires and got clear of us, but me and Martin and Matt Kenseth and Jimmie, we were having a heck of a battle back there," he said. "We fought hard. That was just a great battle; a lot of fun racing, but just didn't quite have it there at the end."

As Gordon has said, there was no challenge to the leader for any of those final 80 laps, with Keselowski having played the proverbial blinder to put himself exactly where he needed to be and make the right moves at the right times. It's Keselowski's fourth Cup victory in his 77 series starts, having previously finished no better than 13th place on the short oval in the past. And he was thrilled to win the famous Bristol night race - so thrilled that he forgot all about the broken ankle and stood on the car roof to salute the fans. He remembered the ankle pretty darn quickly when he carelessly jumped down again, however.

"We were able to pass Martin Truex and the next thing I know, we're in victory lane spraying Miller Lite. This is really cool," he said. "I used to watch Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt win this race. This is a race of champions! I can't believe it. There's races that pay more. There's races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all."

The coolest one of them all gives him three wins in 2011, the same as Kevin Harvick - only Kyle Busch has won more. That makes his progression to the Chase all but certain through the wildcard system, but his continued run of summer success also puts him just 21pts outside of the top ten and automatic qualification for the Chase: with two more races to go before the cut-off, it's not impossible that he'll qualify on merit and not even need the wildcard.

That opens up a whole new world of possibilities and theories about who will and won't make the Chase. If Keselowski breaks into the top ten it'll almost certainly be at the cost of crowd favourites Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart, neither of whom have any wins to fall back on for the wildcard, so the 12th spot would instead go to one of Paul Menard, David Ragan or Marcos Ambrose (who finished a strong 10th at Bristol to improve his chances) - who are within 4pts of each other in the standings, and also at the very cusp of wildcard eligibility with only Menard in the top 20.

The next two races should be no-holds-barred for those drivers with any Chase aspirations, and that should make it both exciting and unpredictable at Atlanta and Richmond over the next fortnight.

Full results and positions available.



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]
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified for 13th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Gordon, who is in the Chase, is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS won the pole position and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS qualified for 16th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. McMurray, who is not in the Chase, is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. This was McMurray`s 2nd Pole win this season. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, climbs into his car prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, laughs before practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, leads Ben Kennedy, driver of the #31 Heater.com Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, left, talks with crew chief Alan Gustafson in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
A view of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, driven by Darrell Wallace, Jr., in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney and Matt Crafton confer. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, talks with the media following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finished in 26th position and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS finished in 13th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Gordon, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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