The Associated Press
HAMPTON, Ga.–From Brad Keselowski’s perspective, it was just a matter of things evening out.
Sure, he slipped away from Atlanta Motor Speedway with a victory that seemed downright improbable most of the day.
Then again, he’s been on other side, too.
“We’ve had races where we’ve led a bunch of laps and things fall apart at the end,” Keselowski said yesterday evening while savouring the 22nd victory of his career with his nearly two-year-old daughter, Scarlett, crawling around on the floor of the media centre.
“That’s just part of how this sport works.”
Keselowski passed Kyle Larson for the lead with six laps to go and pulled away for a victory that, by all rights, should have gone to Kevin Harvick.
He won the pole. He easily led the first two 85-lap stages under NASCAR’s new format.
He wound up running out front for a staggering 292-of-325 laps, usually ceding the lead only when he came into the pits.
In the end, though, Harvick went a little too fast on his last trip down pit road–leading to a penalty that dropped him to ninth place.
“I hate when I lose that way,” Keselowski said.
“When you win that way, you just take it and move on.”
In fact, Keselowski had to overcome his own misfortune after snatching the lead from Harvick coming off pit road on an earlier stop.
Concerned that some lug nuts had not been attached properly to the tires, Keselowski’s team summoned him back to the pits–knocking him from first to 14th.
Instead of getting upset about the miscue, the driver rallied his crew and vowed to work his way back toward the top.
When Harvick faltered, Keselowski was ready to pounce.
“You take advantage of the opportunities when they come,” he reasoned.
This has become a pattern for Harvick at Atlanta, where he’s led the most laps four years in row but has yet to post a victory.
In fact, he hasn’t won at the 1.54-mile trioval since his first Cup victory in 2001, which came in just his third career race after taking over following the death of Dale Earnhardt.
“I’m just snake-bit here,” Harvick said. “But it was my own doing.”
Keselowski could understood how it happened, especially on a day when a number of top drivers–including two-time defending race winner Jimmie Johnson–ran afoul of the 45-m.p.h. speed limit.
“Anyone who wants to leave a comfort zone, I’m going to push harder and I’m going to beat them,” Keselowski said.
“You’ve got to run right to the limit,” he noted. “Sometimes, you’re going to go over.”