By David Morgan, Associate Editor
On a night that started off with several yellow flags in the first half of the race, the 2016 running of the Quaker State 400 on the newly reconfigured and repaved Kentucky Speedway would come down to fuel mileage in the closing laps to determine the race winner.
With about 16 laps to go, the lead lap cars began peeling off of the track onto pit road to top off on fuel, but race leader Brad Keselowski kept his No. 2 Ford out front as he tried to save enough fuel to make it to the end of the race – a 68 lap stretch run to the checkered flag.
Keselowski would seem to have run out of fuel with two laps to go, allowing Carl Edwards to close the gap in search of the lead, but with Edwards hot on his heels, Keselowski heeded the call of crew chief Paul Wolfe and switched to his fuel reserve.
His car now re-fired, Keselowski was able to hold off Edwards charge and took home his third win at Kentucky with just enough fuel to get him across the finish line.
“We almost didn’t, but I’ve got to give credit to my guys, the Roush Yates Engine shop, and everybody at Ford,” said Keselowski. “We knew the fuel mileage. We went out and we set a really fast pace there on that restart and was just using fuel, and then it became obvious that you were going to have to save fuel at the end, but I already used so much. It’s a testament to our guys to have the fuel mileage that we did to be able to get back what I burnt early in the run and get the Miller Lite Ford in Victory Lane.
“It’s number four this year. Gosh, that’s great. Usually these repaves are kind of my Achilles heel, but to get a win here at Kentucky. I know it’s been a good track for us in the past, but this isn’t the same Kentucky, I can tell you that. These cars were tough to drive today, but a good tough. This was a hard-fought battle and I’m really proud of everybody on the 2 crew to get win number four and take that first place.”
Falling .175 seconds short of taking home the win himself, Edwards noted how defeating it was to come so close after making up a deficit of more than six seconds in the final 10 laps.
“I have to give credit where credit is due,” Edwards said. “He did a really good job. He played it perfectly. That was really frustrating. He baited me in there, I thought he was surely out (of fuel) and then he just won the race. He did a good job. We had great power all night, great fuel mileage with TRD (Toyota Racing Development). Man, it’s hard to swallow that one. We thought we had it no problem. He played it perfectly.”
Following Keselowski and Edwards across the line was Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex, Jr. to round out the top-10.