Keselowski overcomes penalty to win at Iowa
August 03, 2013, K.J. Pilcher, Special to NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
Related: Full race results
NEWTON, Iowa -- Brad Keselowski made a busy weekend well worth the trouble.
The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was the lone driver making frequent trips between Iowa and Pocono Raceway, where he'll compete in Sunday's premier series event.
Keselowski will be toting a gas pump trophy back with him after winning the fifth annual NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. He has won the last three Nationwide starts he has made for Penske Racing, despite not having a Sprint Cup victory this season.
"Flying back and forth is definitely work, but the work is worth the reward," Keselowski said. "That’s having a fast race car and a great team to be able to come here to come here to Iowa Speedway and win this."
Keselowski said that might grab more attention than it should, and that is the triumphant effort of everyone working with the No. 22 car Saturday.
"What should get publicity is having a fast car," Keselowski said, "and executing through some adversity."
The key moment of the race came after the third caution, with the Discount Tire Ford starting seventh with less than 50 laps remaining. As Trevor Bayne and Brian Vickers were battling side-by-side for the lead, Keselowski made his move. He shot through the leaders, moving quickly to the front and grabbing the lead on Lap 216.
The choice to take four new tires proved to be a winning strategy, despite slipping a spot in order.
"It was hard-fought to make it happen," Keselowski said. "Certainly, that yellow was a turning point in the race for us."
Crew chief Jeremy Bullins may have been at the heart of the decision, but he credited Keselowski for taking advantage of the situation.
"He took care of the rest of it," Bullins said. "He did a great job all night."
Not only did Keselowski overcome the other 39 drivers in the field, but he persevered through a number of issues during the race. He received an early penalty, after running in the top five with a shot to jump a spot or two during a pit stop under caution. Keselowski was assessed an outside tire violation, falling to the rear of the field for the restart.
He also suffered an overheating problem that hindered him midway through the race. He remained patient before taking the lead and pulling away from the field.
While all the mishaps prevented him from contending early, he had to maintain focus. It was a struggle at times.
"As a driver, those are probably some of the most difficult moments, knowing you have a fast race car and circumstances are playing against you," Keselowski said. "There are two ways you can react to that. You can let the moment define you or you can define the moment."
It was Keselowski’s first win at Iowa Speedway since 2009. He noted the similarities to that victory to his most recent one. His team fought troubles that day, used different strategies and beat Kyle Busch’s team, which he called one of the best at the time.
"It was very much a defining moment," Keselowski said. "Especially with it being the inaugural race here. It was a win that, at that time, was the biggest of my career."
Penske Racing managed to sweep the top two spots with Sam Hornish Jr. placing second. Vickers was third, which is his first top-three finish at Iowa.
Hornish started 14th and came away with his fourth runner-up finish of the season, but said being the top Nationwide finisher was a boost for points, making second easier to accept.
"I felt we had maybe a third or fourth-place car and we finished second," Hornish said. "I’m pretty proud of the way the guys did a great job on pit road for us. I’m actually pretty happy with it."
For the second straight race at Iowa Speedway, Austin Dillon led the majority of the race but failed to seal the victory. He led 116 laps, but fell back to fifth for the final restart. It resembled his performance in June's DuPont Pioneer 250, where he led 207 of 250 and was runner-up to Bayne.
Dillon decided to take four tires when many of the leaders -- including Vickers, Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler and Bayne -- took two tires to move ahead of him. Dillon's fourth-place finish kept him in front of the season points standing with a 14-point lead over Smith.
Pole-sitter Drew Herring paced the field for the first 26 laps, surrendering the lead to Smith and dropping back. He spun out on Lap 55, bringing out the race’s first caution and ending the longest green-flag stretch to start a race this season.