This time the fuel mileage gods played their cards into the hands of Brad Kesolowski, giving him the win as he crossed the line on close to fumes.Ã‚Â With Dale Earnhardt Jr. chasing him down at the end, Kesolowski did everything he could and then some to maintain as much fuel asÃ‚Â possible.Ã‚Â Running 57 laps on a single tank, Kesolowski left just enough for a victory burnout before heading to pit road.
Having felt the success of getting the pole last week and finding the speed to keep him in the top 10 all day at the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway Brad had a lot to say about his team and how they stood behind him during the season so far.
“We’ve been so close,” Keselowski said. “We’ve been plugging away. We had a car that I thought was capable of winning. I had a car last week that sat on the pole [at Charlotte] and had a shot at it and just caught the wrong line on the restart.
“The same thing at Dover and Darlington — we could just never catch that good break. You can only put yourself in that position so many times before you’re going to catch the right break. We caught a great break today because of all the hard work by the Miller Lite team that works on these Dodge Chargers. We got great gas mileage, and that doesn’t hurt either.”
While he was dialing it back trying to hold on to the end on fuel his former boss from Jr. Motorsports was chasing him down hoping for his first win of the season.Ã‚Â Crew chief Steve Letarte, who had thought that Earnhardt was going to getÃ‚Â the win when he passed 3rd place Denny Hamlin with 11 to go,asked Dale Jr. to hold back with only 2 laps to go making it near impossible for Jr. to run “Bad Brad”.Ã‚Â Dale had a spin early in the race, but he never let the loss of position get to him.Ã‚Â Knowing he definitely had a top 10 car beneath him Jr made his determined charge through the field, allowing Letarte to set up a strategic stop near the end putting Jr. in a position to try and chase down the leader.
“I went to searching for more speed and busted my butt up there onÃ‚Â 3 and 4,” Earnhardt said about his spin. “And tossed all the spots we worked for all day.
“But it also gave Steve the chance to play the strategy game … when that caution came out that we came and got fuel. We put ourselves in a one-stop scenario where everybody else didn’t pit. [The front runners] can’t give up the track position because it’s so hard to pass. So they stayed out there knowing they’d have to come down to pit road twice. And that was the game that we took. … There could have had a caution that changed everybody’s strategy, but it worked out for us right to the end.
“We had a good car. We just didn’t have a second-place car — not at all — but we had a top-10 car.”
Dale Jr. is now 3rd in points only 1 point behind teammate Jimmie Johnson, 41 points behind the leader, Carl Edwards,Ã‚Â Ã‚Â and up one position in the standings.
Jeff Gordon ran into the fuel mileage gameÃ‚Â as well although it did no pan out for him as well as it did for Kesolowski.Ã‚Â Earning himself a top 10 finish however certainly put a smile on his face after only managing this feat 3 times before this season.
“We had a great race car all weekend long,” Gordon said. “We unloaded great, and it showed up in the race all day long. We got a little bit loose — it seemed like the track freed up a little bit on that last run, and Kurt [Busch] got out there on me.
“We were just trying to maintain second and see what the pit strategy was going to be. We played it to the best that we possibly could. If I hadn’t been quite so free, I might have been able to get to third. But all in all, a great top-five.Ã‚Â A great day in the points for us.”
Tony Stewart had looked good at the end and was leading with less than 20 to go but had to make one more stop for fuel.Ã‚Â Coming in for a splash and go and heading back out Stewart managed to still earn a top 10 finish, landing him in 8th in Kansas.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get all the fuel in it to make it to the end,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Stewart after recording hisÃ‚Â eighth top-10 finish in 11 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We had a problem getting the fuel in and we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get it full at that second to last stop, so we had to pit there with about 10 to go.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing you can do. Our guys are doing a great job. They did a great job all day. We kind of had to roll the dice on the chassis setup. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m really proud of our engineers and Darian [Grubb, crew chief]. They did a great job of getting us there and making good educated guesses. So, we had a really good car today.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were really loose the majority of the day,Ã¢â‚¬Â Stewart said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The adjustment with about 50 or 60 [laps] to go we finally got too tight. So we needed one more shot at it to get it really good and I think we couldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done that. We just didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get that opportunity.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just part of it,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Stewart when asked races being decided by fuel mileage. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing you can do about it and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a problem. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s part of racing. Crew chiefs are pretty smart and they know how to play the odds and they know what their scenario is and what their situation is and you lose a heck of a lot more of them than you win that way, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nice to steal one once in a while and get it that way. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how we won here in 2006. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll take them any way you can get them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Stewart sits 8th in points for the 2011 season.
Even Kyle Busch was happy with his finish, well as happy as Kyle Busch can be after not finishing first.Ã‚Â After dominating the race and running out front most of the race he had to settle for a 5th place finish.
“I’m proud of the way that this team has run,” Busch said. “To have a car to lead laps today and be very competitive, I was all smiles. I felt coming into the weekend that if we could pace ourselves, have good team communication, we would be competitive.
“It was great. There was always something in the back of my mind today that we weren’t going to win, but I’m glad that Brad Kesolowski got this win for those Miller Lite guys, for Dodge. We’re really happy to keep AAA up front all day today.
“It’s just one of those days where you’re on the right side, sometimes you’re not. For all my guys, we’ll take this one and the points. I’m not discouraged at all.”