When it's your night, it's your night.
Brad Keselowski adopted such a mindset in the Oct. 15 Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Nationwide Series 300-mile race and gambled his way to his fifth victory of the season by leading the final 57 of 200 race laps with one set of tires on his No. 22 Penske Racing machine.
Crew Chief Paul Wolfe maintained confidence in an adjustment made to the car during a Lap 144 pit stop and kept his driver on the track during a Lap 154 caution period initiated by NASCAR officials to reverse a penalty issued to Brian Scott's No. 9 team.
With the die cast, Keselowski survived two caution restarts in the closing 18 race laps and wheeled his car across the finish line 1.137 seconds ahead of Martin Truex, Jr., in the No. 00.
The victory was Keselowski's second of the season in a 2011 series car design and first since he grabbed the Michigan International Speedway checkered flag on Aug. 14. The performance marked his fourth top-two finish in his past five starts and inflated his championship lead to 450 over second-place title contender Carl Edwards, who ended the Charlotte battle 13th.
Keselowski can secure his first Nationwide Series championship by averaging a 26th-place finish in the final four of the 35-race season.
"I might be a little bias, but I thought that was the best race I've seen in my life and I was driving the car. I can only imagine what the fans saw. That was awesome.
"I'm so mentally exhausted after this race. We pitted before the (Lap 154) yellow came out. We knew our car was really good and felt really good about it (the decision to stay out). Paul made an adjustment right there at the end, my car was flying and I knew we would have what it takes.
"Quite honestly, we weren't very good on the test day and we weren't very good the first half of the race. I have to give credit to Paul, that guy is amazing. He gave me the car I needed to win with at the end. I'm proud of everyone who put this car together because it was haulin' the mail. It's an honor to get to drive cars like this," Keselowski said after taking his 22nd top-five and 25th top-10 finish of the season.
Truex, Jr., collected his second top-five finish of the season through three appearances in his 100th career start.
"It's kind of bittersweet. It's hard to finish second with a car that good. We were in good shape there until those last couple cautions.
"The car was so good on those long green flag runs that we didn't make any adjustments and that hurt us once we had that last caution. It seemed like our car was a little bit tighter from there on out. That's what lost us the race and won it for Brad. I want to win again and I'm going to win again, I just cut it a little bit short tonight," Truex, Jr., said.
Justin Allgaier rumbled to a third-place Charlotte finish in his No. 12 Penske Racing ride and delivered his first top-five and fourth top-10 finish in as many starts. He has tallied a total of seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes this season. He sits fourth in the standings a distant 826 points behind Keselowski.
"The guys did a great job. When we showed up here Wednesday we did not have a racecar capable of running in the top 20, let alone winning the race or running third. We had so much fun tonight. That race was a blast, I hope it was for everybody watching. It's been tough with everything swirling around about what's going to happen next year. To be able to come out and run as well as we have been, it's been awesome," he said.
Three-time Kentucky Speedway Nationwide Series race winner Joey Logano took fourth and picked up his 13th top-five and 21st top-10 finish of the season. Clint Bowyer closed out the Charlotte top five with his first top-five series finish of the season and sixth top-10 showing through 12 starts.
The series will visit Gateway International Raceway on Oct. 23. Race coverage will begin at 3:00 p.m. on ESPN2, Motor Racing Network Radio and Sirius XM 128.
Story by Mike Schmaltz