Brad Keselowski won what was a tight race from the start Saturday, prevailing in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Keselowski led the final 17 laps and edged Kyle Busch by .159th of a second in winning his third race of the season. It was Keselowski’s first career victory at Daytona, following four victories at the Cup circuit’s other restrictor-plate track, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Trevor Bayne finished third, his best finish of the season. Joey Logano, Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate was fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fifth.
The race was marred by a major accident on Lap 90, when Jamie McMurray lost control heading into Turn 1. McMurray got into his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson, with Jimmie Johnson unable to avoid them. That started a chain reaction that involved 22 cars – more than half the field. Brian Scott’s No. 44 Ford got airborne at one point and landed on the roof of Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevy.
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“I don’t know what happened, I didn’t have control anymore,” said McMurray. “It’s an unfortunate part of plate racing.”
Said Johnson: “We’re all dealing with a matter of inches.”
The wreck also included Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., rookie Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
“You really think something is going to happen from Lap 1,” Kenseth said of the wreck.
Keselowski passed Kyle Busch with 17 laps to go, diving to the bottom of the track on the backstretch. Keselowski kept the lead the rest of the way.
Three who mattered
Brad Keselowski: Is making a name for himself on restrictor-plate tracks. He’s got five victories now, four at Talladega, one at Daytona.
Kyle Busch: Wasn’t quite as strong as Keselowski, but an impressive performance in a backup car (he wrecked in practice Thursday).
Kurt Busch: He wrecked coming down the frontstretch after Joey Logano made contact with him. But the momentum Busch had from his spin carried him across the finish line and to a 23rd-place finish. Crew chief Tony Gibson called Logano “stupid” in a postrace tweet.
▪ Keselowski’s victory broke a six-race streak of first-time winners for this season. But the top 10 included seven of those drivers -- Bayne, Stenhouse, Kyle Larson (sixth), Austin Dillon (seventh), Biffle (eighth), Clint Bowyer (ninth) and Michael McDowell (10th).
▪ Tony SteKwart, who won last week at Sonoma, finished 26th after a wreck on Lap 149. He picked up enough points to move into 30th in the standings, good enough to be Chase eligible for now.
▪ Biffle finished eighth after starting on the pole for the first time since the 2012 fall race at Charlotte. He did so despite being caught up in the big wreck.
▪ For the first time in three years, the race wasn’t affected by rain. The 2015 race was postponed one day due to wet weather. Last season’s started after 11 p.m. after a weather delay and finished early the next morning.
▪ Benny Phillips, a former writer and editor for the High Point Enterprise, has been named the winner of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Phillips, who died in 2012, spent 48 years at the Enterprise. Former Observer reporter Tom Higgins won the 2015 Squier-Hall Award.
▪ Kentucky Speedway hosts a NASCAR tripleheader later this week, with a Truck race Thursday, an Xfinity race Friday and the Cup’s Quaker State 400 on Saturday.
They said it
“I didn’t give up on them. I believe in my team and my team believes in me.” – Keselowski, on winning at Daytona for the first time.
Three tweets from Saturday’s race:
Quaker State 400
Where: Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Ky.
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
TV: NBC Sports Network.
Radio: Performance Racing Network.