Keselowski outbattles Hamlin for Nationwide win at TMS

Posted Saturday, Nov. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Sprint Cup regulars customarily jump into Nationwide Series cars, but Brad Keselowski has made victories on the junior circuit routine this season in the No. 22 Ford of Penske Racing.

The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion won his sixth Nationwide event Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway by crossing the finish line of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 350 less than a second ahead of the Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing.

The victory marked Keselowski’s first in 14 starts at TMS.

“From the get-go, it took off fast,” Keselowski said. “I think the team did a great job of getting us to where we could utilize our strengths, which was having a fast car and being able to get through traffic fairly well.”

Four caution flags appeared for 19 laps. Keselowski was unaffected.

Four cars, those of Keselowski, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. vied for the front in the last 50 laps.

That list was pared to Nos. 22 and 20. Keselowski and Hamlin jockeyed for the lead until Lap 187, when Keselowski took it back for good over the last 13 laps.

“I think it was some good Texas side-by-side racing,” said Keselowski, who will start second in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.

In addition to the champion and runner-up, the top rung of finishers also included Sprint Cup veteran Kenseth, who placed fourth.

Another, Kyle Busch, appeared poised to be a fourth before spinning out on Lap 111, resulting in a blown back right tire and a damaged backside.

Busch never recovered.

Saturday also marked the 12th victory for the 22 car in 2013. Gibbs holds the record with 13 with the No. 18 in 2010.

Keselowski has won his six in 14 Nationwide starts in the No. 22.

“I really don’t like stats because I don’t think they tell the whole story,” Keselowski said. “But I do like that one.

“I remember getting in cars where I had no shot in hell of winning. It feels a little balanced from a career perspective. [I’m thinking] ‘Don’t screw it up. You have the best car.’”

Hornish Jr. came back from a lap down to finish third, cutting his deficit in the series standings to six behind Austin Dillon with two races remaining this season, starting next week at Phoenix International Speedway.

“We did what we could do,” said Hornish, who registered his third top-10 finish in 11 races at TMS. “We had a decent run. It didn’t look like we would gain any points” at one stretch Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to going to Phoenix. I love that track. I think we will have a great opportunity to continue to gain.”

Dillon, who started up front with pole sitter Alex Bowman and Busch, locked down a fifth-place finish for Richard Childress Racing.

Dillon’s brother, Ty, the winner of Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and who will pick up a full-time ride in the Nationwide next year, finished 12th.

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