Brad Keselowski wins at Pocono
LONG POND, Pa. -- Brad Keselowski was inspired Sunday by a relative in the Navy Seals, and that was all he needed to push through his painful ankle injury.
Keselowski's cousin lost a friend who was one of 30 American service members who died when their helicopter was shot down during fighting in eastern Afghanistan. The NASCAR driver took the sacrifice to heart, and vowed he would not leave his car no matter how bad he hurt.
Davis: Pain, Pride, Honor
Brad Keselowski has a broken ankle, a tenuous grasp on a Chase spot and the attitude that if he was going to race at Pocono, he was going to race well. His win helped deliver a thriller to fans everywhere, writes K. Lee Davis. Story
So Keselowski went out and raced all 500 miles of the Sprint Cup stop at Pocono Raceway with a broken left ankle.
As if that wasn't enough, he somehow managed to win, too.
Competing with a brace on his ankle, Keselowski sped off on the final restart late in the race to pick up his second victory of the season. He gingerly climbed out of his car to celebrate with his crew in Victory Lane.
He dedicated the victory -- one that thrust him into Chase contention -- to the troops in Afghanistan.
"I might not be feeling great, but those are the guys that are really making sacrifices," Keselowski said. "Whenever I got in the car and felt like, man, this really hurts, it was good inspiration as to what it takes to 'man up' and make it happen."
Keselowski was an unlikely winner after he crashed head-on into a wall on Wednesday during a test session at Road Atlanta. He slammed a section of wall at 100 mph and was forced out of the Nationwide Series race.
He insisted during practice this weekend he wouldn't leave the No. 2 Dodge, no matter the aches and pain.
No relief driver was necessary, though Keselowski had some rest during a 1 hour, 40-minute rain delay.
"I was amazed he raced the full race," third-place finisher Kurt Busch said.
Keselowski's victory placed him in prime position to claim one of two wild-card spots available for the Chase for the championship. The top two drivers with the most victories in 11th to 20th place earn a wild-card spot for the playoffs.
Keselowski, in 18th place, is the only one of the wild-card contenders with two victories. Only five races remain until the field is set. The top 10 drivers in the points standings automatically qualify.
"It gives us pretty high odds if we're playing poker," he said.
Keselowski posted several updates on his injury this week on his Twitter page, including two photos that showed a swollen ankle and an abrasion on his foot. His broken left ankle ballooned to the size of a softball, and he needed a left shoe a size larger than his right one.
"There's no good time, but this is certainly the worst time," he said Friday.
No way. Keselowski won his third career Cup race and first since he won in June at Kansas.
"I came here to win," he said. "When you let the pain get into your head that far that you don't believe you can win anymore, you can't win the race."
Kurt Busch and Johnson had a heated exchange after the race because of some last-lap contact and had to be separated by their crews. The star drivers took turns bumping into each other on the final lap. Busch said it was simply hard racing and Johnson, the five-time defending Cup champion, overreacted.
"You want to race, let's race," Busch said. "I raced him smart, raced him clean, and he wants to come back here and (complain) about it. Why can't we race each other like this and put on a show for the fans?"
Johnson and Busch have had dustups in the past. On Sunday, Johnson accused Busch of trying to run him down to secure a top finish. Johnson said he never attempted to bump Busch out of the way over the course of the race just to make a pass.
"I have no problem racing hard," Johnson said. "We raced really hard all day long. I just don't understand why, when I finally get position on him, he's got to run all over the side of me down the straightaway."
Busch claimed Johnson made the first move in the No. 48, turning into Busch.
Busch was third and Johnson fourth.
"For us to beat the 48 today, we've had our battles," Busch said. "And a lot of times I come out on the short end of the stick. But what I saw today was good, hard racing where one guy jukes at the other, the other guy jukes back and rubs you a little bit. That's racing."
The drivers had to be separated by their crews and Johnson went back for more after initially walking away.
Busch became agitated in the media room when he was pressed on the topic.
Brad Keselowski picked up his second win of the year, driving to victory at Pocono despite racing with a broken left ankle.
|1. Brad Keselowski, Dodge|
|2. Kyle Busch, Toyota|
|3. Kurt Busch, Dodge|
|4. Jimmie Johnson, Cevrolet|
|5. Ryan Newman, Chevrolet|
|6. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet|
|7. Carl Edwards, Ford|
|8. Greg Biffle, Ford|
|9. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet|
|10. Paul Menard, Chevrolet|
"Just accept it. It was great racing," he said.
Johnson slammed Busch into the wall last year at Pocono on a botched bump-drafting attempt. They've had run-ins at other tracks, so wasn't a total surprise -- and it's likely not the last one.
"I just keep filing things away," Johnson said. "I'll remember this stuff. There's a couple of other guys out there that have been pushing their luck, too."
There was a racing tripleheader after rain halted the Trucks Series race on Saturday and wiped out the ARCA race. Kevin Harvick won the Trucks race, Ty Dillon took ARCA and Keselowski capped it all with his gutsy performance.
"There are moments in our sport that need to be documented as an `Iron Man' type of day," Kurt Busch said. "It's amazing what the body can do."
Rain hit Pocono hard the last two days and when the red flag came on lap 125, Joey Logano had the lead. He took a break in the ESPN broadcast booth where he was asked if he wanted the rain to stop or keep coming.
"I think it's a dumb question," he said.
Logano faded hard after a blown tire and finished 26th. Points leader Carl Edwards, who signed a multiyear extension with Roush Fenway Racing, was seventh.
Once the rain stopped, Kyle Busch build a sizable lead until it was wiped out on a final caution.
That was the opening Keselowski needed over the final 16 laps and he took advantage -- even with only one good ankle.
"It doesn't feel good, but I'll be all right," he said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.