Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Sports

Keselowski sees Chase lead drained as Bowyer wins

CONCORD, N.C. — Clint Bowyer picked up his first win in the Chase for the Championship on Saturday, winning a fuel mileage race that ended in disaster for points leader Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski dominated the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway but ran out of gas with 58 laps remaining. He fell a lap down and finished 11th, and he had his lead in the standings sliced in half over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

Keselowski, who has a seven-point lead at the halfway point of the 10-race Chase, immediately gave his Penske Racing team a pep talk over the radio.

"Win some, lose some, guys; it's all good," he told them.

Keselowski, who also ran out of gas Friday in the Nationwide Series race because of a fueling error, then asked his crew if he led the most laps Saturday. Indeed, he led 139 of the 334 but had little to show for his effort.

"It's blackjack, you're not going to win every hand," he said. "When you got a bad deal you have to try not to have too many chips on the table."

But Keselowski was able to see a silver lining in finishing 11th.

"It was the worst-case scenario," he said. "We minimized the damage as best we could."

Denny Hamlin finished second and is third in the Chase, 15 points back, and Johnson finished third. Neither felt all that bad for Keselowski.

"Live by the sword, die by the sword," Hamlin said.

"I don't know how much it hurt him at the end of the day," Johnson said. "I've been doing this long enough, too, when you see something happen, in your mind you're like there's an opportunity and before you know it, it happens to you."

Both had to play their own fuel-saving game, especially in the closing laps. Hamlin couldn't make a run at winner Bowyer, and Johnson said he couldn't try to chase down Hamlin.

"We were just being really cautious and didn't want to go out there and chase (Hamlin) and get ourselves in trouble," Johnson said.

Everyone had to keep one eye on the gas gauge starting early, and it worked out in Bowyer's favor for his career-best third victory of the season. It also put him back in the title hunt as he moved to fourth, and he's 28 points out as he heads next week to his home track in Kansas.

It all comes in Bowyer's first season with Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota.

"Who thought in a million years I'd walk into the situation I've walked into?" he asked in Victory Lane.

The race was the first since 1979 without an Earnhardt as Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat out with a concussion.

Regan Smith got the start for Earnhardt, but it was short-lived. The engine in the No. 88 Chevrolet failed during the first third of the race, sending Smith to the garage for the night.

Smith is scheduled to be back in the car next week at Kansas.

Formula One: Mark Webber won the pole for the Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam, South Korea, upstaging Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. The race was held overnight. Webber's final lap was 0.074 seconds ahead of Vettel. Hamilton was third followed by championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth, meaning the top five in the standings filled the top five grid slots. Vettel won the previous two races and is looking to overtake Alonso in points.

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