By Chris Knight
After 62 races—the last 20 of which were in his own equipment—Brad Keselowski is finally a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner.
“We did it,” said Keselowski as he took the checkered flag in Thursday morning’s postponed UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Keselowski’s joy may have been short lived. Following the race, NASCAR announced that his No. 19 truck, as well as the trucks driven by Cole Custer and Ron Hornaday Jr. measured too high at the rear spoiler during post-race inspection. More on these findings will be determined early next week.
Keselowski took the lead from Keystone Pole Award winner Kyle Busch on Lap 124 and never relinquished, despite repeated attempts by former NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Darrell Wallace Jr.
“It was a good battle and Bristol has always been a special track,” Keselowski said. “(Crew chief) Doug Randolph and the team gave me a great truck. This thing took off and it was flying and I knew we had a shot at it right away from Lap 1. It’s (a) matter of putting it all together and not having any bad luck and we didn’t and everything came together and the team did a great job.”
Busch, who scored his fourth pole of the season Wednesday afternoon, appeared to be the class of the field and had his sixth win of the season in his sights. But he found himself out of the racing groove 76 laps from the finish, stalling his momentum and allowing the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to slip by and control the remainder of the race.
After persistent rain forced the 17th annual Bristol race to be rescheduled for the next morning, Busch led the green shortly after 10 a.m. Keselowski took advantage of lap traffic to squeeze by Busch on Lap 12 and led through the competition caution on Lap 50.
Stout work by Busch’s team on pit road gave him the lead back for the restart on Lap 53. Keselowski though wouldn’t let Busch escape as he retook command briefly on Lap 59 before Busch rolled to the point on Lap 61 and led until his miscue 63 laps later.
The final caution flag of the morning waived on Lap 147 for a four-truck accident on the backstretch, which allowed an attempt by the lead lap trucks to gang up and steal Keselowski’s thunder, but he would have none of it.
On the restart, Busch stalked Keselowski, but in their rearview mirrors, a hard-charging Wallace Jr. appeared and took second from his boss and set his sights on the Rochester Hills, Mich., native.
The No. 54 ToyotaCare Tundra closed up to within a truck length of Keselowski’s No. 19 Ford F-150 coming to the white flag, but Keselowski was able to fend off the former NASCAR Next driver to earn his first triumph in 62 NCWTS races.
With his win, Keselowski and father, Bob Keselowski, became the first father and son duo to win NCWTS races. The senior Keselowski won at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in 2007.
Furthermore, the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion became the 25th driver to win a race in all three of NASCAR’s national series. His first Sprint Cup win came at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 26, 2009. His first Nationwide Series victory occurred at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway on June 7, 2008.
“For me, it’s a big day for me personally and professionally,” Keselowski added. “Personally I think we dug into a lot of things with my family and the commitment they’ve had to the sport and specifically to this series for a long time. To race and make a living for quite a while then to beyond that to give me an opportunity to do the same in the latter stages of their involvement. It was a tough road and quite honestly we didn’t make it. It’s always a personal tragedy of sorts to go through that and that’s why for one of the many reasons I’m still involved in this series.”
Wallace Jr., achieved his third runner-up finish of the season, but noted he respected Keselowski too much to wreck him for potentially his third win of the season.
“We had a very fast ToyotaCare Tundra and it’s shown, I’m proud of my guys,” said Wallace Jr. “Brad’s good and I really had to wreck him to get by him, so I respect him and we’ll build off this and go to Canada, that’s a whole different animal in itself.”
Behind Keselowski and Wallace Jr., Ron Hornaday Jr. was third followed by Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter. John Hunter Nemechek, Joey Coulter, Cole Custer, Ben Rhodes and Corey Lajoie comprised the top 10. Busch fell victim to a flat tire and finished 24th.
Sauter continues to lead the series standings by eight points (487 to 479) over ThorSport Racing teammate Crafton.
The Truck Series returns to the track on August 31 for a trip across the border to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the running of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) in Bowmanville, Ontario.