After a spectacular crash earlier in the week at Road Atlanta, no one expected much out of Brad Kesolowski except that he would finish the race if it killed him.Ã‚Â With some very strategic calls during the rain delayed race however, gaining track position by pitting before the rain delay, Kesolowski moved to the front of the field and never looked back.Ã‚Â So with his stiff and sore back, and a swollen broken ankle, he pushed himself to endure and play through the pain to take the checkered flag at Pocono on Sunday, in the Good Sam’s RV Insurance 400.
This win and the points earned in achieving it, have put Brad in an excellent position as the regular season winds down.Ã‚Â Being the only driver with 2 wins in the standings positions between 11th and 20th, he is in the top spot for the first wild card slot in the chase for the championship.
While some gave him hero status for racing as injured as he was, Kesolowski was quick to down play that idea.
“I’m no hero,” Keselowski said. “The heroes are the guys [who have] died in Afghanistan this weekend. I want to spend time thinking about them. They’re my inspiration for this weekend, the things that those guys do.
“I’m glad that we could win today, but those are the heroes. I just drive race cars for a living.”
Kurt Busch, The race’s third place finisher and teammate to Brad Kesolowski, gave him a lot more credit than that.
“It’s amazing what the body can do,” Busch said. “For him to go through that wreck this week and get back on his horse right away and find success, that’s only going to make Brad Keselowski a better racer.”
Kurt Busch had his own issues on the track while battling hard to hold on to his third place position with the #48 of Jimmie Johnson.
“For us to beat the No. 48, I mean, we’ve had our battles and a lot of times I come out on the short end of the stick,” Busch said. “But what I saw [in the replays] was good, hard racing; where one guy jukes at the other, the other guy jukes back and rubs you a little bit — that’s racing.
“That’s what race fans love to see. That’s what they bought this ticket for. That’s what they’re sitting in the grandstands rooting on their favorite driver for is to see him get out there, mix it up clean and bring it home just like we were, third and fourth.”
“What we do is just race hard on the track every week,” Busch said. “That’s the way I’d like it to be documented, and if we watch the tape, we’ll see that the No. 48 swerved into us first and I know that, before even watching the tape.”
Johnson, of course has his own opinion of the way things played out.
“Man, I worked him over for 10 or 15 laps and had the opportunity to screw him up and had the opportunity to run into him and never did it. Then, off of 2 he claims I turned down on him, and I don’t have a clue. He ran over me on the corner exit and that’s where it all started.”
“It was a good battle — man, I worked hard to get by him,” Johnson said. I got to the outside of him off of [Turn] 2 and I don’t know, he ran over the side of me off of [Turn] 2. I didn’t really understand, as I took a lot of patience and gave him a lot of courtesy throughout the course of the day running him down.
“I could have run into him. I could have moved him a lot of different ways to get that position, but I didn’t. I went down there and passed him, and off of [Turn] 2 he ran me up into the wall — or tried to. And I held my ground so I wouldn’t get smashed in the fence.”
“Well, track position is everything,” Johnson said. “I have no problem racing hard. And we raced really hard all day long. I just don’t understand why, when I finally get position on [Kurt], he’s got to run all over the side of me down the straightaway.
“It was a great race. The thing is here, track position is everything. And every driver is at 10/10ths, trying to get what they can, when they can, because you can’t pass. And it took me that entire fuel run to set-up that pass and I finally got it done and then that problem happens. So that’s where my frustration comes in.
“I’m not going to run people over to pass them. That’s just not me. I worked on him for however many laps trying to get by him clean, fair and square and as I got next to him we had that issue off of [Turn] 2. I just keep filing things away. I’ll remember this stuff. There’s a couple of other guys out there that have been pushing their luck, too.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like he was back on his game again, starting back in the 19th position when the green flag dropped, he ran up in the top 10 for most of the afternoon and finished in 9th place, keeping him in 10th place int eh chase standings, 1 point behind Tony Stewart and 23 points ahead of Denny Hamlin.
Dale Jr., who at one time was fielding the car for Brad Kesolowski in the Nationwide Series had nothing but good things to say about his former driver.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good driver and a great guy, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not going to let his opportunities pass him by. He wants to drive every lap he can drive. I bet it was tough for him to not run the Nationwide race [Saturday night at Iowa], but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably what made the difference today for him.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬â„¢