SPARTA, KY. (AP) - Brad Keselowski was the only driver at Kentucky Speedway to compete in all three NASCAR races.
Late on a hot Saturday night in the Bluegrass countryside, he also was the only one to pick up a third Sprint Cup win of the season.
“I wanted all three, but sometimes that ain’t meant to happen,” a happy Keselowski said about his starts in the Truck, Nationwide and Cup races at the 1.5-mile oval. “But second, seventh and a first ain’t bad at all.”
It sure isn’t.
Now Keselowski is elbowing his way into the season-ending Chase picture and making more than a couple of other drivers nervous about their own chances.
As the Cup series builds to its climactic stretch run, Keselowski, who also won at Bristol and Talladega and is now 10th in the standings, is making a lot of people take notice.
Kyle Busch stands 12th with the top 12 through the first 26 races making the Chase “playoffs.” He realizes that 10th-place finishes _ like he had at Kentucky _ might not be good enough.
“We’re still within reach and everything,” he said in the din of the postrace bustle, before adding, “We’re certainly not running the way we need to be running.”
Kasey Kahne, who used a late rally to close to second in Kentucky, climbed into the final wild-card position at 14th.
“A top-five (finish) is good, but it’s probably not going to get us in the Chase,” he said. “We need to win a race or two more to make the Chase.”
Kahne rallied from a lap down to squeeze Keselowski’s final advantage to 4.399 seconds. Kahne had finished higher than 19th just once in the season’s first six races. Crashes at Pocono and Michigan put a damper on his hopes before he started picking off cars in the final few laps on the bumpy track in Kentucky.
“We’ve got to keep working on it and got to be a little stronger throughout,” he said. “But my car was fast. The longer the run went, the better we seemed to get.”
Because Carl Edwards, 11th in the standings, and 13th-place Paul Menard have yet to win, Kahne has an advantage thanks to his win at Charlotte.
“It’s time for us to get it in gear,” Edwards said. “I am real frustrated. (Crew chief) Bob (Osborne) is real frustrated. I know we can do this.”
Heading into this weekend’s Cup race at Daytona, Matt Kenseth is first in the standings, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart and Keselowski.