FORT WORTH, Texas – Brad Keselowski battled by Denny Hamlin with 15 laps left and drove away to his sixth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season during Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
Keselowski was the man to beat during most of Saturday’s 200-lap event, but a slow final pit stop forced Keselowski to work a little bit harder than he probably would have liked.
The Michigan native was the race leader when he came down pit road on lap 171 for a green flag pit stop. His two closest pursuers, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, followed him into the pits. A problem with the jack during Keselowski’s stop cost him a few seconds in the pits, allowing Hamlin to take the lead.
As the top three drivers were getting back up to speed Joe Nemechek wrecked down the backstretch to bring out a caution flag. The field returned to racing on lap 177 with Hamlin in the lead, but before Keselowski could mount a challenge Travis Pastrana wrecked on lap 178 to bring out another caution.
The green flag returned on lap 183 and the battle for the race lead resumed. Hamlin was able to get a big jump on the restart to grab the lead as Keselowski followed in second. After an unsuccessful attempt to take the lead on the outside, Keselowski went low with 15 laps left and was able to grab the lead for the final time.
Keselowski slowly pulled away from Hamlin in the closing laps, eventually beating him to the checkers by nearly three seconds.
“My boss, Roger Penske, is here and the last time I drove the Discount Tire Ford Mustang I wrecked it at Kansas. I had to redeem myself today,” Keselowski said in victory lane. “I’ve never won at Texas and I had to redeem myself for last night when I spun by on my own in the Truck race and cost the team a shot.
“It feels good to get it done today with this team. Jeremy Bullins, the crew chief, he is on it right now. He is really on fire. I can’t remember if that is 12, 13 wins? I can’t even keep count anymore,” Keselowski said.
Sam Hornish Jr. closed to within six points of Austin Dillon in the fight for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. It was a long day for Hornish, who nearly made a near fatal championship mistake early in the race when he hit the commitment cone on his way to pit road.
Hornish was hit with a pass through penalty by NASCAR and subsequently lost a lap. Hornish was able to get his lap back on lap 76 when the caution flag waved for debris, but he was still off sequence with the rest of the lead lap cars. As Hornish was about to pit under green and get lapped again, he got the lucky break he needed.
Kyle Busch blew a right rear tire and backed it into the turn four wall on lap 111, allowing Hornish to get back in sequence with the leaders. He was able to fight his way through the pack to a third-place finish.
Kenseth and Dillon crossed the finish line in fourth and fifth, respectively. Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler, Brian Scott, Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet completed the top 10.
The victory by Keselowski, combined with Busch’s bad day in the No. 54 Toyota that ended in a 26th-place finish, allowed Keselowski’s No. 22 Ford team to open up a 26-point advantage in the battle for the owner’s championship with two races left.