NASCAR

Keselowski edges Gordon at Dover

No. 2 takes over points lead

10/1/2012
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Denny Hamlin (11) leads the start during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Dover, Del.
Denny Hamlin (11) leads the start during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Dover, Del.

DOVER, Del. — Brad Ke­se­lowski had fuel to spare for a cou­ple of vic­tory burn­outs.

Those few splashes of gas left down the stretch were just enough for a check­ered flag — and a sign Ke­se­lowski is a cham­pi­on­ship fa­vor­ite.

With other con­tend­ers bat­tling fuel woes and limp­ing to­ward pit road, Ke­se­lowski had enough gas in the No. 2 Dodge to win Sun­day at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way for his sec­ond vic­tory in three weeks.

Ke­se­lowksi's stout start to the Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­on­ship al­lowed him to swipe the points lead from Jim­mie John­son.

Ke­se­lowski holds a five-point lead over John­son as the Chase shifts to Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way. Ke­se­lowski, who won the Chase opener at Chi­cago­land, has won twice at the Ala­bama track in seven ca­reer starts.

He held off a late push from run­ner-up Jeff Gor­don to match Denny Ham­lin for the sea­son vic­tory lead with five.

“I can't state loudly enough how much lon­ger this bat­tle is,” Ke­se­lowski said.

Ke­se­lowski, John­son, and Ham­lin have staked their claim through the first three of 10 Chase races as the driv­ers to beat.

John­son and Ham­lin each led a chunk of laps on the mile con­crete oval, but failed to stretch their fuel to the end. 

John­son, who has seven ca­reer wins at Dover, was or­dered to back off the gas and sal­vaged a fourth-place fin­ish. 

Ham­lin pit­ted with 10 laps left and faded to eighth af­ter start­ing from the pole.

“They're not go­ing to beat us on the track, that's just plain and sim­ple,” Ham­lin said. “We're just too fast right now and I feel like ev­ery­thing is go­ing well. These strat­egy games, and the way these cau­tions are fall­ing, it's ill-timed.”

There was a cau­tion at the end of a cy­cle of green-flag pit stops only 69 laps into the race that quickly dropped driv­ers a lap back. Amaz­ingly, most of the field couldn't ever get that lap back, and only six driv­ers fin­ished on the lead lap.

Non-Chase driv­ers Mark Mar­tin fin­ished third and Carl Edwards was fifth. 

Kyle Busch led a race-high 302 laps un­til his own bat­tles with the pump cost him what would have been a nice vic­tory in a sea­son where he failed to make the Chase. He fin­ished sev­enth.

There were some rough fin­ishes for the rest of the Chase field. Mar­tin Truex, Jr., was sixth, Clint Bow­yer was ninth, Dale Earn­hardt, Jr., 11th, Kevin Har­vick 13th, Ka­sey Kahne 15th, Greg Bif­fle 16th, Tony Stew­art 20th, and Matt Ken­seth was knocked out of the race and was 35th.

There are seven races left in the Chase.

“By no means, do I feel like we're the fa­vor­ite,” Ke­se­lowski said. “Cer­tainly, we're not the un­der­dog.”

John­son had his record eighth win at Dover in sight un­til he was forced to start sav­ing fuel.

Crew chief Chad Knaus told John­son to yield the lead so the No. 48 could at least score a top-five fin­ish.