In 29 years, no Chrysler vehicle had ever won the Kroger 200 at the Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Indiana, and tonight was the last chance; NASCAR is heading for the bright lights of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2012. So it was a perfect ending to an era when Brad Keselowski and the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger took the checkered flag on Saturday night, beating the next two cars by nearly a second..
Keselowski started the race in the No. 2 slot, but it was Ricky Stenhouse in the No. 6 Blackwell Angus Beef/Cargill Ford who led most of the race. He passed Keselowski on the first lap, but Keselowski was running second or third until a yellow flag pitstop on Lap 114. When the green flag waved again, Keselowski was out of the top ten. On Lap 127, The Discount Tire Dodge was showing smoke coming out the back, but Keselowski had moved back up to ninth place.
What had been a ho-hum race went wild beginning with a three-car crash on Lap 176 that brought out a red flag. After the restart, Trevor Bayne’s No. 16 RickyVsTrevor.com Ford blew an engine, Justin Allagier’s No. 31 Deft Finishes Chevrolet’s brakes caught fire and by Lap 197, Keselowski had taken the lead. He kept the lead after a restart on Lap 198 and kept it all the way to the finish line. Keselowski led the race for just seven laps, but they were the seven most important laps.
After the race, Keselowski told reporters, “I’m not sure what happened at the end of that race. I’m going to have to go back and watch it on TV to fully understand what happened. The 16 car blew up. The 31 caught on fire. We ended up restarted in second position on the outside lane and I knew that if I could get around the 6 car that we had a shot at the win. I had a great short-run car that could give Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) a run for his money. If the race was two of three laps longer, I’m sure Ricky would have drove around us. Our Discount Tire Dodge Challenger was great on the short run. It’s great to get back to victory lane again.
“Indy has always meant a lot to me. Coming from Michigan and this being a track that I always drove to, I’ve never missed a race here in all the years as a fan, spectator, kid, mechanic and a driver; it’s a place that I always enjoyed coming to. I’m glad to be able to sit in victory lane as a driver for the first time here. What’s so special about this place is that I have a lot of family on the west side of the state, some of them are here today and I saw them up in the grandstands. It’s just a privilege to win around people that you grew up with and you know. It’s almost like a second home track for me. It’s a real pleasure and honor to win here.”
Blake Koch in the No. 81 K-Love Dodge finished 20th and moved up a spot to the No. 19 position in the driver rankings. Dennis Setzer’s No. 23 R3 Motorsports Dodge developed a brake problem and had to leave the race after 21 laps. Jennifer Jo Cobb, who had entered the TenforJen Challenger, wound up in the No. 113 Lilly Trucking of Virginia Ford and had to drop out after just two laps with handling problems.
Next NASCAR action is the Brickyard 400 today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.