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Keselowski turns up the heat with third win

It remained Busch/Keselowski/Johnson ahead of Denny Hamlin even after the next round of green flag pit stops just before the 100 lap mark, but then Keselowski turned up the heat on Busch and on lap 119 Busch slapped the wall out of turn 2. He was able to keep going, and a debris caution a few minutes later meant that Keselowski wasn't quite able to press home his advantage just yet.

Denny Hamlin - who just prior to the race had tweeted that he had successfully sealed a contract extension deal at Joe Gibbs Racing, which hadn't been up until the end of 2013 in any case - was able to get the jump over his team mate Kyle Busch for the lead. Buch battled for second place with Johnson for a few laps but was clearly not as strong as he had been and had to settle for third ahead of Keselowski.

A blown engine for Dave Blaney on lap 150 brought out the third caution of the evening and triggered more pit stops, after which the race resumed with the top four unchanged and Martin Truex Jr. having passed Clint Bowyer for fifth just before the yellow flags. Bowyer had fallen to tenth for the restart and then been the innocent bystander when Joey Logano and Ryan Newman had made contact, which had left Bowyer on the receiving end and having to pit the #15 on lap 170 for new tyres and repairs that put him two laps down.

"Just got hit from behind and knocked in my quarter panel and made me really, really loose for a few laps," said Logano.

"He lost control in the middle of three and four," insisted Newman of the incident from his vantage point. "I got into the back of him on accident, but I mean that is part of it. He lost control in the first place, I went to go drive around the outside of him and I don't know if he was half ways blocked me or what. It just about spun him around into the #15 and I guess if the #15 wasn't there it would have."

At the front, Hamlin was still firmly in charge but as the laps remaining ticked below one hundred to go he was getting messages from pit lane to start thinking about fuel saving strategies. He was not alone. A new round of green flag pit stops commenced soon after lap 200, but then the game plan changed when Ryan Newman blew his engine and spun on lap 210, hitting the wall in turns 1 and 2.

"Just something blew up, that was the bottom end of the motor," shrugged Newman. "It was going to be a decent night, maybe not a great night points wise. Points wise maybe a good night, but not a great night for a top five. Something on the bottom end of the motor of the Tornados Chevrolet."

Regan Smith was also in the wrong place at the wrong time, hitting the oil slick laid down from the blown Chevrolet.

"I was right there with him," said Smith. "I saw it, but there is not much you can do. I went sideways as soon as I hit the oil. It was unfortunate because we had a good car. In fact, we were getting better on every run and I truly felt we had a good shot at a top ten."

Ironically, Newman's wreck proved good news for former Cup points leader Greg Biffle: having already got one of his laps back during the green flag pit stop cycle, Biffle had been the highest-placed car off the lead lap when Newman hit the wall and duly got the wave-around, enabling him to get back on the lead lap, although he would drop off again before the end and would finish in a damage limitation 21st.

Two of the former race leaders now hit problems: even before the caution, Kyle Busch had been very slow on the race track and reported that something had broken on the #18, possibly a shock absorber as a result of that earlier hit with the wall.

"We salvaged a heck of a finish for what all we had to go through," reported Busch after the race. "Definitely not any fun to drive, but had to do what we could on three pogo sticks."




Related Pictures

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Joey Logano, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, races Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Tornados Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday in Sparta, Ky. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday in Sparta, Ky. (Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday in Sparta, Ky. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS stops in the pits on his way to his win Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, suffers a mechanical issue during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #55 Fronius USA/Viva Auto Group Chevrolet, spins out during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, soc during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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