Brad Keselowski was making himself at home again in victory lane for the third time in 2012 and the first time at Kentucky Speedway, where he brushed aside nationwide heatwaves and hot-headed spats on Friday with Juan Montoya to clinch the win in the Saturday evening Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Keselowski praised his Penske Racing team for their work on Friday, after his clash with Montoya early in practice had seen him put his primary race car into the wall.
"They put together a backup car from last year in 100-degree heat in an hour's time," he marvelled. "Got it on the race track and got to run our laps for practice to make the adjustments we needed to be fast today. That's what badasses do, and that's what got us to victory lane today. I'm proud of these guys for it, damn proud of them."
Far from thinking that his driver had won despite
Friday's adversity, crew chief Paul Wolfe was of a mind that Keselowski simply seemed able to find a whole new level of racing when as worked up as he had been by the Montoya incident.
"There are definitely a lot of instances where I've seen Brad be able to find speed in the race car when he is ticked off. Whether or not he's doing it, it seems like it happens," said Wolfe. "Bad Brad was back this weekend - and I don't know whether that's good or bad!"
While Jimmie Johnson had won pole position on Friday, it was the man alongside him on the front row - Kyle Busch - who leapt into the lead for the first 33 laps once the green flag came out, but further back Keselowski was quickly seeing off Kevin Harvick for fifth place and then sliding under Ryan Newman for fourth. Then it was past Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin to slide into second place, and his declaration of intent for the evening was well and truly made.
With Busch complaining of his car being loose, it was just a matter of time before Keselowski took the lead for the first time on lap 34. A few minutes later the first caution of the steamy evening came out when Scott Riggs' #23 car came to a halt out on track after having been off the pace for most of the race to that point.
He wasn't the only one having troubles, with the temperatures only now starting to fall away from the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. Joey Logano was having the one thing no driver wants in those circumstances, trouble with his cooling unit - "My A/C broke on lap 20, so I didn't have a fan or anything. Just really, really hot," he said - but it was Tony Stewart who was really having a bad start to the night as the #14 limped into pit lane for emergency repairs to the throttle ignition that put him multiple laps down and ultimately left him classified in a dismal 32nd place.
After the first round of pit stops under caution, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson once again lined up at the front, and once again Busch took off in front while Keselowski snatched back second place and gave chase. Further back, Kasey Kahne suddenly dived back into pit lane for new tyres after reporting a vibration, which seemed to have put paid to any chances of success for the Hendrick driver this evening.