For all of his accomplishments on the hallowed grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Roger Penske still has one trophy missing from his trophy case – a Brickyard 400.
As the daylight dwindled in Sunday’s 24th running of NASCAR’s annual trip to the 2.5-mile speedway, the Captain looked to be in the catbird seat to be able to capture that trophy for the first time with 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski up front. However, Keselowski still had to contend with Kasey Kahne, who was looking for his first win in 102 races.
Kahne would come out on top after a flurry of late race cautions and an overtime finish, leaving Keselowski to finish second for his best finish ever at Indianapolis, but falling short of the win still stung, especially with how close he came.
“We had a good, solid day,” said Keselowski. “Anytime that you’re that close (to winning) you can certainly taste it. I had a taste of it in my mouth, I didn’t get to eat it.”
Keselowski’s day got off to an inauspicious start as the team had handling issues to overcome early in the going, leading to a 20th place finish in Stage 1. Stage 2 was much more fruitful for the No. 2 team as they finished that 50-lap segment in ninth place.
The tide really started to turn in Keselowski’s favor after he took the lead on lap 133 when green flag pit stops were underway and his team stayed out on track hoping for a caution. Had a caution not come out, Keselowski would not have had a chance for the win as he would have had to come to pit road under green. Fortunately for Keselowski, the caution did come out a couple of laps before he was due to hit pit road, bringing out an eventual red flag.
Keselowski was able to pit once the yellow flag was displayed after a 20-minute red flag, giving up the lead to Kahne, who stayed out on track with Ryan Newman. On the ensuing restart, Keselowski was able to get up to second before another caution came out on lap 156.
From that point it was down to a battle between Keselowski and Kahne for the win, along with Jimmie Johnson in third.
However, the three cars drove into Turn 3 three-wide with two laps remaining in regulation, and three-wide simply does not work at Indianapolis. Johnson got loose under Keselowski and Kahne, spinning out in a single car crash to set the field up for yet another restart.
Keselowski got the jump on the restart before a multi-car crash broke out on the frontstretch, bringing out a 24-minute red flag and pushing the race to overtime as the sun was fading fast.
Though Keselowski had the race lead, Kahne got the better of him on the final restart, taking over the lead in Turn 1 and holding on as the final caution flag flew to end the race as the leaders were past the overtime line.
“We weren’t the fastest car today, but our team did a hell of a job executing,” said Keselowski. “I wish I could have executed a little bit better to bring home the win. I’m not sure what that would have took. But all in all, good to have a top finish at this track. I think our best finish coming to this race here was ninth three or four times. Kind of checked this one off as at least getting a top finish. Maybe not a win, but, you know, a top‑three, top‑two finish. So it’s nice to check that off and hopefully we can come back here next year and improve one more spot.”
“Happy and proud to have a team that’s capable of running up front, and when not capable of running up front, executing to get me up front and put me in position like they did today.”