KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. was charging again, hoping this time he'd come out on top in a frantic late fuel-mileage battle.
But leader Brad Keselowski stretched his tank perfectly Sunday to win the Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway — and extend Earnhardt's winless streak to 106 races.
Keselowski led the final nine laps of the STP 400 for his second Sprint Cup victory in 66 races, and his first since a stunner for owner James Finch in 2009 at Talladega.
"There are some secrets to it, and I just maximized them all. I had plenty (of fuel) left," Keselowski said.
Earnhardt appeared set to make a late charge on Keselowski. That push never came — though Earnhardt moved up to third in the standings, just one point behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, who finished seventh.
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.
"Anytime you win a fuel-mileage race you've done something as a driver," Earnhardt said. "We don't know what we're doing really trying to save gas or how much we're saving. But (Keselowski) had a hand in it."
Denny Hamlin was third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards, who holds a 40-point lead over Johnson.
David Reutimann of Zephyrhills was 22nd, one lap down.
Pole-sitter 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 earned the pole last week at Charlotte and has been on a monthlong upswing for Penske.
He seemed to come to life just as teammate Busch reached a boiling point, with his displeasure culminating in an expletive-laden rant on team management.
That led to behind-the-scenes personnel changes at Penske, including the announcement that technical director Tom German was leaving to attend a graduate program at MIT.
But Keselowski also took exception to a comment Busch made that it had been several years since he'd had a teammate capable of running the same pace as him.
Since then, Keselowski logged a third-place finish, raced into the All-Star Race main event and, on Sunday, earned a win that could help him nab a wild-card spot in the Chase to the Championship. The top 10 in points plus the two drivers in spots 11-20 with the most wins make the Chase; Keselowski moved up to 21st in points.
Because several drivers in front of him stopped late for fuel, and he wasn't updated on his team radio, Keselowski didn't know he was leading until he spotted a scoring pylon with two laps to go.
"I was instantly mad at my guys for not telling me, but you get over that pretty quick when you cross the finish line first," he said.
ONE OF THOSE NAMIN' DEALS: Sprint chief executive officer Dan Hesse said his company is in talks with NASCAR to extend its title sponsorship of the Sprint Cup series. "Our intention is to continue the sponsorship with NASCAR," Hesse told the Kansas City Star before Sunday's race. Sprint is in the eighth year of a 10-year, $750 million sponsorship that goes through the 2013 season.