The Associated Press
HAMPTON, Ga.–Brad Keselowski had his hands full with a new car and a new rules package–enough to make for a trying race–before a stomach virus nearly flattened him.
Keselowski missed a portion of final practice, received intravenous fluids at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s medical centre, and had a replacement driver on stand-by yesterday in case he couldn’t make it the full 500 miles.
Sick day? No way.
Keselowski recovered from ‘flu-like symptoms to win at Atlanta and move past Mark Donohue as the winningest driver in Team Penske history.
It was the first win for Ford’s new Mustang and a rebound for the manufacturer after Toyota swept the season-opening Daytona 500 last Sunday.
“A race car driver is who I am. It’s what I do and what I love. I’m not going to let anything get in the way of it,” Keselowski said after the win.
“We had the team to win,” he added. “Of course, things still have to go your way but I don’t want to be the reason why they don’t.”
He was admittedly hot, tired, and somewhat dazed after three-and-a-half hours of racing.
Had the event been one day earlier, Keselowski said he wouldn’t have been healthy enough to drive. He lost nearly six pounds battling the illness but wasn’t complaining after the win.
“Whenever you have a fast car, it’s funny how fast those things disappear,” he quipped.
Keselowski has proved his toughness before–most notably in 2011 when he won at Pocono just days after breaking his ankle in a crash while testing.
This time he fell ill late Friday night after surprising fans in the Atlanta infield with beer during their rainy night of partying.
Keselowski’s wife also was sick, and Keselowski missed the start of Saturday’s final practice as Austin Cindric turned laps in the No. 2 Ford.
“Whatever we had, I’m not sure what we had, it floored both of us,” Keselowski said.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second in a rebound from his disappointing debut with Joe Gibbs Racing.
His three JGR teammates swept the podium in the Daytona 500 while Truex failed to ever contend in his Toyota.
Kurt Busch was third in a Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing while celebrating his 650th career Cup start.
Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five in a pair of Fords for Stewart-Haas Racing.