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Brad Keselowski! In another NASCAR surprise....and in another NASCAR gas mileage chase, at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s expense

   The smile of victory: Brad Keselowski, at 27 one of NASCAR's new young lions, scores his second Sprint Cup victory in dramatic fashion at Kansas Speedway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Long-suffering Kurt Busch finally had the strongest car, dominating Sunday's Kansas STP 400, but it was teammate Brad Keselowski who pulled the stunner, snookering the field with gas mileage and winning the hottest race of the NASCAR season so far.

    Keselowski himself was surprised at the win.
   "Nobody told me I was leading," Keselowski said. "I finally looked at the scoreboard with two to go, and saw my number at the stop, and started shaking."
    "Kurt had 'em covered on speed, and we had 'em covered on strategy."
   Keselowski won his first Cup race at Talladega two years ago, in a controversial finish against Carl Edwards. This one was just as tense, in a different way.
   Down the stretch it was easily clear this would be a gas mileage race, and most of the front runners stopped for gas, under green, with about 30 miles to go.
   But Keselowski didn't have to make that extra stop, and – by cutting off his engine in the corners – he conserved enough gas to finish, and to do a burnout.
   "You can only put yourself in that position so many times before you catch that break, and we caught that break today," Keselowski said.
   And it was a strange race, where many of the pre-race favorites never got in the chase. What was expected to be a Jack Roush Ford weekend, with Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle showcase items, turned into a Kurt Busch show right from the start.
   In the opening miles Busch complained that his car was handling terribly and predicted he'd be running last by the first round of pit stops. But minutes later his car kicked in, and crew chief Steve Addington was all smiles, watching Busch lead a whopping 152 of the 267 laps.
   But then it all morphed into another gas mileage challenge.
   Saving gas? "There are some secrets to it, and I maximized them all," Keselowski said. "When Tony Stewart pitted just ahead of me (with about 90 miles to go), I thought for sure, at the end, I was going to finish second. I didn't know I was leading."
   Roger Penske, team owner for Keselowski and Busch, has had to deal with angry drivers lately, so this win was quite pleasing.
   And it was crew chief Paul Wolfe's first Cup tour victory. "We just keep putting ourselves in the top-10, and it's not always the fastest car that wins these races," Wolfe said. "It's just been a good team effort here lately with both teams."
   Earnhardt thought he was on the way to victory in the closing laps -- which would have been his first in three years -- while he was dueling with Denny Hamlin late. Earnhardt outran Hamlin in that battle, but it wound up being for second.


Dale Earnhardt Jr., for the second straight week, on the verge of victory (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   "I was told that was the race for the win; I didn't think Brad would make it on gas," Earnhardt said.
   "They kept telling me 'We're good, we're good (on fuel),' and then with 10 to go they told me 'Back 'er down, back 'er down.' And I was thinking 'Not again.'"
   Hamlin too figured he was battling Earnhardt for the win: "I figured Dale and I were the only two on that gas strategy, and when Dale passed me, I felt that was for the win."
   Hamlin, who has had a ragged spring, didn't have a very strong car. "We pretty much made our bed into a fuel mileage race" early in the day, he said.
   It was yet another NASCAR gas mileage finish, like Charlotte's 600 last weekend, and Saturday's Nationwide finish in Chicago.
   Earnhardt just lost a gas mileage race at Charlotte, running out in the final turn of the last lap. And Earnhardt, whose last tour win was in a fuel mileage race at Michigan in June 2008, said last week he'd rather not break that winless streak with a gas mileage win. However now he might be second-guessing that, coming so close in back to back races.
   "We got lucky on fuel mileage to take second place," Earnhardt said.
   "It's just so hard to pass here, worst I've ever seen it. I went looking for some more speed…and busted my butt, and spun, and cost us all that track position.
   "But everyone else couldn't pit and give up that track position. So we got a break there.
   "We didn't have a second place car, but we had a top-10 car."

   The day was warm and sunny, 91 degrees, but with little humidity. Still, the crowd, for this the first of now two annual Cup races, wasn't a sellout; the stands were maybe 80 percent filled.
   For drivers, however, the ambient heat wasn't the only heat they had to deal with. "These cars now are so much hotter than the cars we used to run," third-place finisher Denny Hamlin said. "The exhaust is right under the floor, and your feet are burning. It's just like sitting in a sauna."
    Maybe 140 degrees or more inside the cockpit.
  "I don't know how everyone else did, but that race (and the heat) worked on me pretty good," Earnhardt said.
   Earnhardt 60 laps into the race said "I'll be surprised if this heat doesn't get me before the end of the race.
   "But they threw a couple of bags of ice in there, and then when we had a shot to win, that will get anyone up on their seat."


   A strange day at Kansas Speedway, where the pre-race favorites, like Carl Edwards, never seemed to be in the game (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

                            The finishing order for Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway








I guess this win doesnt count

I guess this win doesnt count because it was a fuel mileage win. Because we all know that Danicas first win didnt count because she won on fuel mileage.

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