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Monday, July 14, 2014

Keselowski wins Camping World RV Sales 301, becomes first to sweep at Loudon

LOUDON – Nobody enjoyed their stay in the Granite State this weekend more than Brad Keselowski.

After a dominant Nationwide Series win on Saturday, Keselowski completed the sweep at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with another trip to Victory Lane in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301. ...

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LOUDON – Nobody enjoyed their stay in the Granite State this weekend more than Brad Keselowski.

After a dominant Nationwide Series win on Saturday, Keselowski completed the sweep at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with another trip to Victory Lane in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301.

Keselowski, who drove the No. 2 Redds Ford, solidified his spot in the 16-man Chase with his third checkered flag of the season, moving into third in the standings and tying Jimmie Johnson for the 2014 series wins lead after victories at Las Vegas and Kentucky. The Team Penske driver led for 138 of the 305 laps, including the final 30, to become the 13th different winner in the last 13 races at New Hampshire.

“It feels like we really just hit our stride. I’m just quiet and somber because I want to soak it all in. I don’t want this moment to go away so quick,” Keselowski said. “It seems like when you get to Victory Lane and everybody’s rushing around, you don’t get a chance to soak it in. It was such a phenomenal weekend and these don’t happen often. That’s what makes it special.

“You try to appreciate them and enjoy them and not count on it. These are big deals, winning races at the Sprint Cup level,
sweeping a weekend.”

Keselowski’s team employed a four-tire pit strategy for most of the race before switching to a two-tire change in his final stop at Lap 250. He fell back from first to ninth place as the yellow caution flag was waved at Lap 253.

Keselowski catapulted to second place after passing Denny Hamlin at Lap 262, then took the lead for good at Lap 270 when he passed Jeff Gordon for his second commanding win in as many days.

“It was definitely a tough call for us all day,” crew chief Paul Wolfe said of the four-tire strategy. “When you have cars like we did (Sunday) it’s like your competition is always gonna do the opposite of what you do. And that kind of happened at the first stop when we went with four and everyone went with two, really not sure how that was all gonna work out and unfold.

“From that point I think it was about the strength of our car and what Brad was able to do moving through traffic. … We stuck with our plan and it worked out.”

No. 2 car owner Roger Penske said he was especially pleased to see the outcome after missing Keselowski’s first-place finish at Kentucky. It was Ford’s fourth consecutive win.

The team’s unique plan left Keselowski playing catch-up on multiple occasions despite leading a majority of the race. He took his first lead at Lap 90, lost it at 131, but reclaimed it again at Lap 180 and seemed in control for the next 38 laps before losing it again to the pit.

But as he did all day, Keselowski seemingly moved back in front with ease.

“I knew we had a great car and you don’t take it for granted,” he said. “I knew it was going to be tough. It seemed with each time it kept getting a little harder. Thankfully we were able to get back up there and make the most of it.”

Most importantly, Keselowski’s post-race celebration was a success. He wound up in stitches after breaking a champagne bottle at Kentucky and dropped the American flag after Saturday’s Nationwide race. On Sunday, Keselowski handled the 20-pound New England lobster flawlessly.

“Apparently I’ve gotta win more and I’ll get better at it,” he joked.

Pole-winner Kyle Busch took second for his third-straight runner-up finish at New Hampshire. Kyle Larson finished in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10th place) also clinched a spot in the Chase assuming he attempts to qualify for the seven remaining races in the regular season.

Johnson, who started the race in second and was one of the favorites to win, had his left rear tire go flat and spun into the wall at Lap 13 to end his day.