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Brad Keselowski rolls by Kyle Busch late to win in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS -- A 33-race winless streak doesn't count as an eternity in motorsports. In a sport where success and performance often run in cycles, not visiting Victory Lane for nearly a year rates more as a hurdle than stuck in a ditch.

But when a driver has to watch his teammate in Victory Lane time after time after time after time after time, it doesn't tend to help the situation. Sure, a driver will enjoy seeing a teammate win on Sunday but then wonder the rest of the week why he continues to leave the track without a trophy, the confetti and the stench of alcohol from the celebration.

Brad Keselowski snapped a 33-race winless streak Sunday by leading the final six laps in the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his first victory since March 22, 2015, when he won at Auto Club Speedway in California.

Since that win, Keselowski's teammate Joey Logano won five times. The best Keselowski could do were five runner-up finishes.

With no trophy for second, how did Keselowski handle the last year?

"He was extremely ornery," said Keselowski spotter Joey Meier, who has worked with him for 10 years.

Keselowski heard that characterization of him and replied: "I've been ornery? Well, he has, too."

In other words, many who work on the No. 2 team had reason to be ornery. Keselowski had posted eight top-5 finishes since that last win. He led at least 100 laps in four of the races, including 312 of the 334 at Texas in November.

Still nothing but shakes of the head, either at a mistake he made, the team made or a NASCAR ruling he didn't agree with.

"He knows there's no excuse because they literally have the exact same equipment," Meier said. "The pressure we put on ourselves because we know if Joey is winning races, we should be winning races. If not, it's the fault of the person in the mirror."

Keselowski tried to throw away the win again Sunday when he sped down pit road on Lap 180 of the 267-lap race. He and Logano stayed out when the leaders pitted with 51 laps remaining, hoping that their having pitted 16 laps earlier would be enough to make it on fuel.

Thanks to 15 laps of caution from two accidents and drizzle, they had plenty.

But Keselowski didn't appear to have enough car to beat Kyle Busch, on fresher tires and whose daring move from sixth to first with 44 laps remaining included his blowing by Keselowski and Logano in the process.

A vibration, though, made Busch's car a handful. Keselowski passed Logano with about eight laps to go and then easily passed Busch, who told his Joe Gibbs Racing team he couldn't go fast enough to hold off Keselowski and within a lap saw the white-and-blue car steam by.

Finally, a mistake didn't prove as costly as Keselowski had thought on a day that was full of weirdness with wind gusts of 40 mph and blowing drizzle forcing a 25-minute delay to start the race.

"I definitely didn't feel good after the speeding penalty," Keselowski said. "It certainly didn't improve our chances.

"The Las Vegas line probably went down. It was probably a good time to put a bet on it."

Keselowski has won 18 Sprint Cup races in his career, and the five wins in his 2012 championship season and his six wins in 2014 were the most of any drivers each of those years. He rattled off those stats when talking about the losing streak.

He tried to focus on those stats during the winless streak. He didn't lose confidence.

"Brad's a confident guy," said Logano, who then deadpanned: "I don't know if you guys met him before. It's hard for him to lose confidence."

Logano had to settle for second behind Keselowski with Jimmie Johnson third, Busch fourth and Austin Dillon fifth. Ryan Blaney, driving for Penske affiliate Wood Brothers Racing, finished sixth, making it a great day for the Penske organization.

"I don't think [the streak] really took a toll on him," Logano said. "He was up there racing with us the whole time. ... [What happened] last year wasn't because they didn't have fast cars or weren't working well together.

"They were doing everything right. It's just circumstances have to go perfectly a lot of times to win these things."

The fact that Keselowski beat his teammate to the finish line shows the strength of the Penske equipment, especially in the second race of the new reduced-downforce aerodynamic package. The team often interchanges cars between its drivers, so there could come a day when Keselowski has the car that Logano drove Sunday and vice versa.

"It talks about the whole team and how strong we are, how we continue to push," Keselowski crew chief Paul Wolfe said. "We had to overcome adversity today obviously. I think Brad and this team showed in the past there's no one I think that's any better at that.

"Getting that speeding penalty early on, you know, obviously wasn't ideal. No one gave up. Brad obviously continued to push hard and show the strength of the car."

The win allows Keselowski to look forward. He knows he most likely will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He can take risks and not worry about points.

But Keselowski probably didn't need the win to look forward. He has never been a guy who has appeared to dwell on the past.

"There was a lot of misfortune and there was a lot of self-inflicted things I could have done better and beyond," Keselowski said about the winless streak. "But I can't sit here and dwell on that. At the end of the day, the last four seasons, the 2 team [of mine] has won the most races two of the last four years. ... It's my goal to make that three out of the last five years where we won the most races.

"I think in any professional sport, a stat like that is a pretty good one. I'm going to try to focus on that one."