SPARTA, Ky. — On his first practice lap at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, Brad Keselowski wrecked his best car.
What could have been a devastating blow ended up being a curious blessing.
Driving his backup car, Keselowski raced to his series-best third victory of the year Saturday night, grabbing the lead with 55 laps left and holding off all challengers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.
"It wasn't the newest car we got, but it runs," Keselowski said.
The 28-year-old from Rochester Hills, Mich., also won this season at Bristol and Talladega. He gave all the credit for his seventh career Cup win to his team.
"They put together a backup car from last year in 100-degree heat in one hour's time to get me back on the track," he said.
Kasey Kahne rode a late surge to second, 4.399 seconds back.
Keselowski was running so well that Kahne, despite his fast finish, knew he needed help to catch him.
"I just hoped he'd run out of gas," Kahne said, grinning. "No way I was catching him. We had stopped (for a fill-up), and I was hoping he'd shut down."
Keselowski had just enough fuel to finish.
Crew chief Paul Wolfe called the quick turnaround in cars "probably the toughest weekend our team has ever had up to this point."
Keselowski led 68 of 267 laps on the 1.5-mile oval, ending a streak of four starts during which he had failed to crack the top 10.
He slammed the right side of his top car into the wall Friday in the wake of a collision with Juan Montoya. He said he believed he had been "pushed around" by Montoya on the practice lap and reacted angrily.
Denny Hamlin finished third hours after announcing a new agreement with Joe Gibbs Racing on Twitter.
"It's a great day," he said. "When you know you're locked in where you're going to race for (a) really long time, it's a good feeling. Those guys (at Joe Gibbs Racing) have given me a championship-caliber racing team."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth despite a loose car late and moved up to second in points.
Kahne and Earnhardt were part of a strong night for Hendrick Motorsports, which also put Jeff Gordon fifth and pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson sixth.
Points leader Matt Kenseth, racing for the first time since announcing he was leaving Roush Fenway Racing after the season, finished seventh.
A year after severe traffic congestion resulted in thousands of angry fans at the track's Cup race, there were few glitches.
Meanwhile, Keselowski was getting questions about whether he might be able to make a run at the championship.
"We just have to keep winning," he said.
Yeah, but with which car?
Tony Schumacher led Top Fuel qualifying heading to today's eliminations at the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill., with a run of 3.763 seconds at 324.83 mph. John Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) led their classes.