Brad Keselowski said the style of his Brickyard 400 victory — which came to life in the final laps after a late call by crew chief Paul Wolfe to change tires, and a caution that allowed the Penske driver to utilize them against leader Denny Hamlin — made winning Roger Penske’s first Brickyard 400 (to go with his team’s 17 Indianapolis 500 wins) all the sweeter.
“Last year I lost this race almost the exact same way and to bring it home this way, it feels really good to make up for my mess-up last year — and to give Roger Penske his first Cup car win here at the Brickyard is just an incredible feeling,” said Keselowski.
“The call made today was just phenomenal. We weren’t the fastest car by far but this team just never gave up on it, made the most of the strategy and executed a perfect race. And that’s something I’m so proud of.”
Keselowski’s chance came on a restart with three laps remaining, his Penske Ford trading paint with the Joe Gibbs Toyota of Hamlin down the backstretch before Keselowski pulled ahead for good.
Afterward, a disappointed Hamlin — who wound up third after also being passed by Erik Jones — focused on the circumstances that led up to the pass rather than the move itself. Specifically, a late caution for the heavy collision among backmarkers.
“Not have meaningless guys wreck,” Hamlin snapped when asked what the difference-maker might have been. “I don’t know what they’re doing crashing multiple laps down…meaningless. All those cautions allowed the guys who took tires to save their strategy, allowed them to come back up there and obviously allowed the 2 (Keselowski) to kind of rough us up there at the end. So, kind of unfortunate but that’s what happens sometimes.”
Asked whether he could take solace from the strong form he’d shown heading into NASCAR’s playoffs, Hamlin replied, “I don’t even care about the playoffs at the moment. All I care about is not winning this race. It’s one that was big on my list that I wanted to win, and the team gave me the car that was certainly capable of doing that. We executed flawlessly on pit lane, the strategy was good, had a fast car…just, circumstances. Cautions killed us at the end.”