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article imageNASCAR: Earnhardt runs dry on final lap, Keselowski wins in Vegas

By John Duarte     Mar 10, 2014 in Sports
Las Vegas - Brad Keselowski's eyes must have lit up during the final lap of the NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. All he had to do was pass Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had just run out of gas, and coast to win the Kobalt 400.
“Today, we caught a little bit of racing luck,” Keselowski said. “You can catch racing luck and be running 10th and it doesn't mean anything, but when you're running in the top two or three like we have been the last couple of weeks, you can catch a little small break and you're there to exploit it and get a win.”
The race winner commended Earnhardt's team strategy not to refuel in the latter stages of the Kobalt 400. He said the new format for qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup allows teams to take chances such as Earnhardt did this week.
“They had nothing to lose because of this (new Chase) format,” he said. “I'm looking forward to being able to take those same opportunities because I'm not scare to take 'em.”
Keselowski said that he knows his crew gives him a car capable of winning each race, but admitted his luck in Vegas hasn't always been good.
“I was thinking back to my first start here in 2009, I remember Rick Hendrick (his then team owner) walking up to me and he said 'just run a whole race and don't wreck and you'll have a good race',” Keselowski recalled. “I made it all the way to Turn 3 or 4 on the first lap and wrecked.”
He said getting a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week was like getting a monkey off his back and hoped it was a sign of things to come.
“I'm sure there's other tracks that we can hopefully do the same this year,” he said. “It's such a relief for myself and everyone on the team to get a win early and being able to enjoy the racing opportunities that we have, rather than being stressed out about it.”
The victory tasted especially sweet for Keselowski, who entered the 2013 run for NASCAR's top racing level as reigning champion, only to miss the Chase for the Sprint Cup and not be able to defend his title. Though a win virtually secured in 2014's Chase, Keselowski said he can't rest on that laurel.
“We just want to get more wins,” he said. “You've got to get on steady footing once you reach the back half of the year with your cars and team to where you're just consistent front runners so you can get into those last 10 races and make some noise.”
The win at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway leaves Keselowski in second place in the overall Sprint Cup drivers' standings. He trails Earnhardt Jr. by one point and is 15 points ahead of the defending Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson. More importantly however, under the new format for ranking drivers for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup, each win adds a level of security to a driver's chance of making a run for the championship.
NASCAR revamped the way drivers make it into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The field has been expanded from 12 to 16 drivers and wins are the major factor in determining the Chase entrants. Under the new format, each winner is automatically added to the list of challengers. If there are fewer than 16 different winners during the season, spots in the Chase will be filled according to the Sprint Cup points standings. With wins this early in the season, Keselowski joins Daytona 500 winner Earnhardt Jr. and last week's winner Kevin Harvick as the drivers who already taken advantage of the new system. If any of the three win another race this season, they will all but be guaranteed a spot in the group of drivers making the run for this year's championship run.
The Food City 500 is the next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The race will be run at Bristol Motor Speedway, in Tennessee, on March 16.
More about Nascar, Sprint cup series, Brad Keselowski, las vegas motor speedway, Auto racing
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