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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 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the #17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford tangle during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Damage to the winshield of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Spring is Calling Chevrolet, is repaired on pit road during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, crashes early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field past the green flag after the initial caution ended during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, pits his car damaged by a jet dryer early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field past the green flag after the initial caution ended during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Ford EcoBoost Ford, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop Toyota, at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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