It took until the 31st race of the 2013 season but defending champion Brad Keselowski finally got his first win of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season Saturday night, winning the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Keselowski passed Kasey Kahne with nine laps to go to take the victory. It's Keselowski's tenth career victory and he won by just four car lengths. Keselowski battled back from being sent to the rear of the field earlier in the race due to dragging pit equipment out of the pits. It's the mentality of the team that Keselowski pointed to as the key to victory.
"It was a never give up night," Keselowski said in victory lane. "Love running hard for the win and we were able to do that tonight."
Kahne finished in the second position and fought back to attempt to retake the lead from Keselowski but the Penske Racing Ford was just too strong. Finishing third was Matt Kenseth with Jimmie Johnson finishing fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Finishing sixth was Kevin Harvick with Jeff Gordon finishing seventh, Ryan Newman eighth, Denny Hamlin ninth and Carl Edwards finished in the tenth position.
Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick led the 43 car field to green and Gordon pulled away early. He had a one second lead by lap 22. On lap 25 the races' first caution flag of the night flew when JJ Yeley crashed in turn two. The accident ended Yeley's night in the 43rd position. The leaders would pit and Kasey Kahne would win the race off pit road as he and several other drivers took two tires putting Gordon eighth on the lap 30 restart.
Gordon wasn't the only one to fall back during the stops. A miscommunication between Kyle Busch's pit crew led to Busch having a loose wheel making the Las Vegas, Nevada native have to come back down pit road and restart in the 36th position.
When the race restarted it was Kahne who pulled out in front, but not for long because on the same lap Dale Earnhardt Jr took the lead and began to pull away. However, debris would end up on the grill of the #88 Chevrolet and Earnhardt's temperatures would rise. He would let Kasey Kahne pass him and try to get behind him to get the debris off. Earnhardt would fall to fourth before getting the debris off.
Meanwhile in the front of the field Kahne was setting a blistering pace. During the run Mark Martin would begin to experience issues on his #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Martin would lose a cylinder and fall off the pace. Green flag pit stops would begin on lap 68 and when the stops cycled around on lap 78 Kahne was still the leader by over two and a half seconds.
On lap 83 the races' second caution flag would fly when Mark Martin's Chevrolet blew up on the backstretch. Martin had fallen of the pace before the engine had finally let go. He finished 42nd. Some of the leaders would pit without incident for everyone except Brad Keselowski. Keselowski would pull out of his pit stall with the jack still underneath the car. There is a rule against equipment leaving the box and Keselowski had to start from the rear of the field on the restart.
The top eight on the restart would stay out and Kahne was still in front with Dale Earnhardt Jr on the high side for the lap 91 restart. Earnhardt would get a great restart and take the lead from Kahne. Kahne would reel Earnhardt in and on lap 96 Kahne took the lead from Earnhardt and pulled away from the field. Kahne's lead was over 2.2 seconds by lap 106 and by lap 114 Kahne had stretched his lead to 3.2 seconds. Earnhardt would lose the second position to Jimmie Johnson on lap 123 and Johnson tried to chase down his teammate.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 127 and after the pit stops cycled around on lap 144 Kahne had stretched his lead to 4.5 seconds over the new second place driver Kyle Busch. On lap 172 the races' third caution flag would fly for debris. The leaders would pit again and most would take four tires. Kasey Kahne won the race off pit road and restarted on front row for the lap 176 restart.
On the restart Kahne would lose the lead to teammate Jimmie Johnson who started on the outside of him on the restart. By lap 198 Johnson's lead was over a second and by lap 205 he had stretched that lead to 2.2 seconds. Kahne would chop the lead down a tad because on lap 220 Johnson's lead was just under two seconds.
Another round of green flag pit stops began on lap 227 and by lap 237 Johnson was still in the lead and his lead was just about three seconds for Johnson. Johnson's teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr began to fade. By lap 242 Earnhardt had slipped out of the top ten for the first time during the night and the car just never found the handle again.
On lap 250 Kyle Larson, who was making his Sprint Cup Series debut for Phoenix Racing, brought his car to the garage area after experiencing an engine issue. Larson was having a solid day in the top 20 all night before he fell off the pace before his day ended on lap 250. He finished 37th. Meanwhile Johnson continued to put on a show in the front of the field. By lap 256 Johnson's lead was 3.3 seconds and by lap 267 the lead had stretched to 3.5 seconds. Another round of green flag pit stops began on lap 278 and after the stops cycled around on lap 297 Johnson still found himself in front by just under five seconds.
On lap 301 Clint Bowyer began to experience engine issues on his #15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Bowyer would finish the race in the 11th position, despite running on seven cylinders.
On lap 307 the races' fourth and final caution flag fell for debris when Johnson had a five second lead. The leaders would pit and Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon would take two tires with the rest of the field taking four. Kahne and Gordon led the field to the restart, with Jimmie Johnson in third, and Matt Kenseth in fourth. Brad Keselowski restarted in sixth.
The race would restart on lap 311 and Kahne would pull away with Jimmie Johnson having major issues on the restart, dropping him to the eighth position before getting back into the swing of things. Keselowski took advantage of Johnson's issues and found himself third on lap 314. One lap later Keselowski would pass Kenseth for the second position and tried to chase down Kahne. Keselowski had four tires and was really cutting into Kahne's lead. He would catch Kahne on lap 321 and make a move on lap 322 giving him the lead. Kahne battled back with a great run off the high side to reatke the lead. Keselowski in the #2 Ford was too strong though and took the lead again on lap 326. Keselowski pulled away from Kahne after the pass but Kahne chased Keselowski down but ran out of laps.
With the victory Keselowski became the first non-Chase driver to win a Chase race since November 2011 when Kasey Kahne won at Phoenix.
Other notables in the field included Kurt Busch in 14th, Dale Earnhardt Jr in 15th, Greg Biffle in 16th and Joey Logano in 18th. Danica Patrick finished 20th and Martin Truex Jr finished 22nd. Brian Scott finished 27th in his Cup debut for Richard Childress Racing and Blake Koch finished in 38th for Leavine Family Racing in his debut.
Matt Kenseth still leads the points standings over Jimmie Johnson who trails by just four points. Third in the standings is Kevin Harvick who is 29 points back and Jeff Gordon is fourth in the standings 36 points back. Fifth in the standings is Kyle Busch, who is 37 points behind and Greg Biffle is sixth in the standings. Seventh in the points is Kurt Busch with Clint Bowyer eighth, Dale Earnhardt Jr ninth and Carl Edwards is tenth. Eleventh in the standings is Joey Logano with Ryan Newman 12th and Kasey Kahne in 13th.
The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 20th.
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