Carl Edwards fully expected Brad Keselowski to run out of fuel in the closing stages of Saturday night's NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway, and Keselowski thought his tank had hit empty with two laps remaining.
But Keselowski had enough fuel in reserve and managed to cross the finish line on fumes to take the Quaker State 400, his series-best fourth victory of 2016 and second consecutive win. Keselowski need a tow truck to push him to victory lane, as he ran out of fuel just short of the checkered flag. He won by .175 seconds over Edwards.
Ryan Newman finished third, with Kurt Busch fourth. Tony Stewart, making his 600th start, finished fifth.
"I knew we were way short of being able to make it, so I got as aggressive as I could," Keselowski said. "Somehow, we made it and I'm not even really sure you can say we made it because we ran out with about two to go, and by running out I mean it stumbled really, really bad and I was able to somehow limp it around the last two laps and stay ahead of Carl and bring her home. That was something."
When Keselowski slowed with two laps to go, Edwards closed suddenly on the No. 2 car. But Keselowski countered by throwing a block on Edwards, then sped up and pulled away leaving Edwards with no chance to pass him for the win.
"Yeah, I thought he was out of fuel, and he wasn't," Edwards said. "He played it perfectly. He let me get to him and then stood on it.
For much of the night Keselowski ran in the top 10, but didn't appear to have a winning car. That distinction belonged to Kevin Harvick, who led a race-high 128 laps, and Martin Truex Jr., who emerged as a contender in the second half. But both Harvick and Truex weren't able to conserve fuel like Keselowski and needed to make late pit stops. Harvick finished ninth, Truex 10th.
"It just came down the fuel mileage, we couldn't make it at the end and some guys could," Harvick said. "That is just part of it."
Greg Biffle scored his first top-10 finish of the season with a sixth-place effort, followed by Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth.
A hard tire compound and a reconfigured track with brand-new surface that had little grip outside of the bottom groove, challenged drivers throughout the night. Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano were among several who struggled, each involved in separate single-car crashes when they slid up the track and into the outside wall.
Rookies Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott were each positioned in the top 10, seemingly poised for good finishes, until Blaney got loose and clipped Elliott on lap 89 of 267. The contact sent both crashing into the Turn 3 wall and requiring a trip to the garage for extensive repairs.
Eleven cautions, tying the Kentucky track record, slowed the race for 53 laps.
Quaker State 400 finishing order
|10||7||Martin Truex, Jr.||Toyota||267||Running||46|
|13||13||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||267||Running||0|
|40||21||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||9||Crash||0|