Brad Keselowski matched Denny Hamlin with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series-leading fifth win of the season Sunday at Dover, Keselowski capitalizing on Hamlin's demise thanks to better fuel mileage.
Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota teammate Kyle Busch were the dominant drivers in the AAA 400, but both pitted with 10 laps to go from first and second. That opened the door for Keselowski's Penske Racing Dodge to come through and score his second win in the Chase, having also won the Chase opener at Chicagoland.
“These Dodge and Penske engines have done a phenomenal job of managing the power and the fuel mileage,” Keselowski said. “Going into this race, we thought we'd be going through hell but we made this happen today. I'm so proud of the effort because this is one of our weakest tracks usually. We kept creeping around and that puts you in position. If we keep doing this it will be an awesome seven weeks.”
Busch and Hamlin ended seventh and eighth – Busch's season of frustration continued with another non-comment and leaving the track, while Hamlin handled the situation well.
“It's a good day when you ran the way we did, but it's obviously frustrating where the car contends for a win and you wonder how slower cars beat you,” he surmised. “It took different strategy; it was still a good day. Going in, maybe I'd take an eighth, but not when we ran top-three. We gotta work on the fuel mileage because we have the speed to compete and win.”
The beneficiaries were Hendrick Motorsports – Jeff Gordon second and Jimmie Johnson fourth, although Johnson needed to slow down to ensure he made the finish – with Mark Martin splitting the two as the top-finishing Toyota on the day for Michael Waltrip Racing.
“We're not good at fuel mileage races and when we saw it was one, we were in big trouble,” said Johnson. “It's tough, it really is. We finally got control of the race late, but it didn't unfold like a normal race here.”
Carl Edwards in fifth and Martin Truex Jr. in sixth were the only other two on the lead lap. After the Gibbs pair, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano completed the top-10.
Heading to Talladega next week, Keselowski has now taken the points lead by 5 over Johnson, 16 over Hamlin and 25 over Bowyer. Bowyer has won the last two October Talladega races.