INDIANAPOLIS — Brad Keselowski snatched victory from Denny Hamlin in the final laps of the Brickyard 400 on Monday to give Roger Penske a sweep this year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Will Power won the Indianapolis 500 in May for Team Penske’s 17th victory in that event. Despite all the organizational success at Indy, no Penske driver had been able to win NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
Keselowski, an afterthought most of this season, used fresher tires and timely late cautions to put Penske in victory lane. Keselowski has now won two consecutive races headed into NASCAR’s playoffs. The victories are big ones, too: the Southern 500 last week and now the Brickyard 400, two of NASCAR’s crown jewel events.
Reversal of Fortune for Keselowski
“Last year, I lost this race almost the exact same way. To bring it home this way, after messing up last year, is just incredible,” Keselowski said. “We were hoping this would be No. 500 and the Brickyard, but that’s all right.”
Penske certainly won’t be complaining about getting win No. 499 on the same historic 2.5-mile oval where he has won a record 17 Indianapolis 500 crowns.
Penske’s first win 25 Cup tries at his favorite racing venue came on one of the rare days he wasn’t actually attending in the pits for the rain-delayed race.
But Penske now joins Chip Ganassi as the only owners to win the Indy double in the same season. Will Power captured his first 500 win in May, while Dario Franchitti and Jamie McMurray both won at the Brickyard in 2010 for Ganassi.
Keselowski and his No. 2 crew climbed the Indianapolis fence to celebrate, a move made famous by Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner.
Kyle Busch, meanwhile, claimed the NASCAR regular-season title and claim the top-seeded playoff spot.
Late Cautions Helped Keselowski
Keselowski wasn’t a factor until two late cautions gave the 2012 series champion a chance to use fresher tires to chase down Hamlin. The race went green with three laps to go and Clint Bowyer, in second, spun his tires. Keselowski darted around Bowyer into second, then caught Hamlin. The two cars touched a handful of times as they raced for the lead, and Keselowski finally surged ahead with a little more than one lap remaining.
He won by 0.904 seconds over Erik Jones. Hamlin was third 1.703 seconds behind. The victory was the first for Ford at Indianapolis since 1999.
Rain Forced Race to Monday
Steady rain for three days in Indianapolis washed out all activity surrounding NASCAR’s regular-season finale and Monday was a doubleheader with the Xfinity Series, won by Justin Allgaier, followed by the Brickyard. At stake was a wild-card slot in the 16-driver playoff field, available only to a first-time winner this season.
Hamlin was frustrated by an accident between Landon Cassill and Jeffery Earnhardt with seven laps remaining that gave Keselowski a shot at the win.
“Cautions killed us at the end,” Hamlin said.
Johnson, Bowman Nail Final Playoff Spots
Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman claimed the final two open spots in the playoff field. The other drivers competing for the championship: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Jones, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, and Keselowski.
The playoffs begin next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.