KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. was charging again, hoping that this time he’d come out on top in a frantic late fuel-mileage battle.
“We finally caught a break. Awesome call, Paul,” Keselowski radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe, who guided him to the Nationwide Series championship and moved up to the Cup Series this year.
Keselowski led the final nine laps for his second Sprint Cup victory in 66 races, and the first for Penske Racing since Kurt Busch last year in the Coca-Cola 600. Keselowski also had a surprise 2009 victory at Talladega in only his fifth career Cup start.
“There are some secrets to it, and I just maximized them all. I had plenty [of fuel] left,” Keselowski said.
For the second week in a row in a fuel-mileage race, Earnhardt came up just short. He ran out of gas near the finish in Charlotte and wound up seventh.
“All in all, a great top-five, a great day in the points for us,” Earnhardt said.
Denny Hamlin was third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards, who holds a 40-point lead over Johnson.
Johnson fought from 31st position and finished seventh. Polesitter Busch led 152 laps and finished ninth. He had to stop for gas as the leader with 10 laps left.
“I was all smiles. I felt the groove again, to lead the race. It was great. It was solid,” Busch said. “There was always something in the back of my mind that we weren’t going to win, but I am proud Brad Keselowski did.”
Keselowski won the pole last week at Charlotte and has been on a monthlong upswing for Penske.
He seemed to come to life just as teammate Kurt Busch reached his wits’ end, with his displeasure culminating in an expletive-laden rant against team management.
That led to behind-the-scenes personnel changes at Penske, including the announcement that technical Tom German was leaving the team to attend a graduate program at MIT.