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Brad Keselowski wins Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Brad Kese­lowski spent nearly a full year winless, watching while Team Penske teammate Joey Logano went to Victory Lane five times.

Keselowski had to drive through wind, rain, sand and Logano himself to finally hit it big in Vegas again.

Sunday, Keselowski passed Kyle Busch with five laps to go and surged to his second victory in three years in the NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway under weird and windy weather conditions.

After getting past Logano and tracking down Busch in the Kobalt 400, Keselowski drove his Ford to his first Sprint Cup series victory since Fontana in March 2015.

"For Team Penske, it's our 50th anniversary," Keselowski said. "To get the first win of the year, it feels real good."

Keselowski had to gamble on fuel late, and he thought he had blown the race earlier with a speeding penalty.

The risks paid off for the 2012 series champion, who claimed he hadn't been dwelling on his winless skid over the past year.

"It's hard to believe it's been 34 races," Keselowski said. "We've led a lot of races in that time span. Probably deserved to win a few more races than that. … There was a lot of misfortune, and then there was a lot of self-inflicted things that I could have done better and beyond. But I can't sit here and dwell on that."

A lurking storm blew gale-force winds and light rain onto the desert track. The wind might have had something to do with Keselowski dropping the American flag — which he customarily holds out his window on victory laps — during his celebratory burnout.

He stopped the car, got out to pick up the flag and proceeded to Victory Lane.

Logano finished second and Jimmie Johnson third in the opener of NASCAR's three-week Southwest swing.

Busch finished fourth, falling a few laps shy of completing a weekend sweep after dominating Saturday's Xfinity series race. His right front wheel developed a vibration after his final pit stop, and he struggled down the stretch.

Logano fought Keselowski tenaciously for position, but they emerged from the duel smiling.

"It took a long time to get by Joey," Keselowski said. "He put up a heck of a fight. If anyone ever wants to say that your teammates just lay over and give it to you, that's not how we are at Team Penske. We race each other hard but clean. That was really something to see."

Keselowski didn't pit with the leaders with 52 laps left on the 11/2-mile oval, managing to make his fuel last with enough caution laps.

The wind regularly blew debris into the drivers' grills, getting pole-sitter Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson in the opening laps. Later, the wind picked up sharply while a dust storm rose on the outskirts of the track, obscuring the view of nearby Nellis Air Force Base and briefly dropping more rain.

"I guess that's the Wild Wild West, right?" Logano asked. "It was just dusty, grainy, windy. Crazy."

Kyle Busch appeared to be in good shape with an artful move to get in front and a strong restart late. But the Las Vegas native reported problems with his wheel, and Keselowski eventually surged in front to stay.

"(Busch) had a really good short-run car, but it fell off on the long run," Keselowski said. "That is part of this new (low-downforce) package (which NASCAR mandated for this season). Some are good on short run and some are good on long run, and we had a really good long-run car today."

Matt Kenseth spun into Chase Elliott in a late wreck that sidelined both cars. Kenseth couldn't explain what caused his wreck with Elliott, but he noticed the wind gusts picking up off the restart.

Kenseth, who said he "spun out before I had any idea what happened," continued his rotten run of luck in a season that he began by losing the Daytona 500 on the last lap.

New UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate attended the race about 15 hours after her victory over Holly Holm on the other end of the Las Vegas Strip. Tate cheered on defending Vegas champion Kevin Harvick, whose company manages her career. Harvick finished 17th.

"I was glad I was able to make it here," Tate said. "I had so much going on this morning, but I didn't want to miss this race for anything."

East Bay Raceway: Keith Nosbisch won the 30-lap Late Model feature late Saturday in Gibsonton.

Sprint Cup points

Through three of 36 races. The top 16 drivers, based on wins then points, will make the 10-race Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts Back

Kyle Busch 116—

Jimmie Johnson* 110 6

Kevin Harvick 109 7

Joey Logano 104 12

Kurt Busch 102 14

Brad Keselowski* 98 18

Carl Edwards 96 20

Denny Hamlin* 93 23

Martin Truex 90 26

Austin Dillon 90 26

Ricky Stenhouse 79 37

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 78 38

Kasey Kahne 77 39

Ryan Blaney 73 43

Aric Almirola 72 44

Jamie McMurray 69 47

* Has a win

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 138.170 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 53 minutes, 55 seconds

Margin of victory: 0.675 seconds

Caution flags: Six for 36 laps

Lead changes: 20 among 10 drivers

Lap leaders: Ku.Busch 1-31; Logano 32; Smith 33; Hamlin 34-43; Logano 44-82; Harvick 83; Dillon 84-85; Keselowski 86-99; Logano 100; Johnson 101-131; Logano 132; Johnson 133-148; Logano 149-150; Keselowski 151-154; Johnson 155-176; Logano 177-200; Kenseth 201-209; Johnson 210-216; Logano 217-223; Ky.Busch 224-261; Keselowski 262-267

Up next

Good Sam 500, 3:30 Sunday, Phoenix International Speedway, Avondale, Ariz.

TV/radio: Ch. 13, 102.5-FM

Brad Keselowski wins Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas 03/06/16 [Last modified: Sunday, March 6, 2016 10:42pm]
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