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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]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates setting the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, places his name in the top twelve on The Chase Grid after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, puts the winner`s sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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