Brad Keselowski wins his third NXS race at Kentucky Speedway.
On Friday night, winning was music to Brad Keselowski’s ears.
When he entered the media center on Thursday, Keselowski eyed the new trophies for winners at Kentucky Speedway — Crosley jukeboxes.
From the start of the Kentucky 300, Keselowski was on a mission to add the unique prize to his trophy case.
The Team Penske led in the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford for the first time on Lap 78. Keselowski led 65 of the first 137 laps. Kyle Busch was at the point when John Wes Townley hit the Turn 2 wall on Lap 163 to ignite the fifth and final caution. Before the yellow flag, the race was evolving into a fuel mileage game but inevitably turned into a pit road contest.
After a two-tire stop by the No 22 crew, Keselowski exited the pits in first-place with 31 laps remaining. His spotter Joey Meier did his best to keep Keselowski’s eye on the prize.
“The guys around you want to take your jukebox away from you,” Meier said.
Keselowski’s position would be short-lived as second-place Erik Jones passed him on the inside in Turn 1 for the lead. Although the No. 22 was slowly chipping away at Jones’ lead and trailed the No. 20 Toyota by just 0.252-seconds with 10 laps to go, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was doing his best to hold the former Sprint Cup champion off.
But coming out of Turn 4 with nine laps remaining, Jones ran into lap traffic in the middle lane. Keselowski used the No. 44 car of David Starr as a pick. While Jones went high, Keselowski take the low lane — and the lead. He held Jones off for the remaining nine laps with a 0.242-second advantage at the line — the second close XFINITY Series finish at Kentucky.
Busch, Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-five finishers.
“You got a jukebox my friend,” Meier told his driver, who was giddy following his 33rd career NXS win. When Meier asked Keselowski what the first song he would play on his trophy, he replied, “Jukebox Hero.”
After a series of burnouts at both ends of pit road and under the flagstand, Keselowski made his way to Victory Lane where the jukebox awaited his arrival.
"The racing was cool, but that jukebox is cool as hell," Keselowski said after earning the 50th NXS for Roger Penske. "I always wanted a jukebox and I got one for winning a race, it just seems perfect.
"We had a good car tonight. I think the top three were all real close. Kyle and I had stretched out a pretty good lead over Erik at one point. Maybe I built up a false sense of confidence because when Erik got by me on that last restart I thought, 'we'll get right back by him,' but it was not easy. Erik drove a great race and we were able to hang with him, just enough to pressure him and he got in a bad spot with a lap car there -- not really of his own fault, just part of racing and when it happened, I was able to jump all over it.
"That's a credit to Greg (crew chief Erwin) and the team for having a great car to where we could make the most of the opportunity. I feel humbled and proud to be able to drive a car that's this good year in and year out."
Jones' debut at the 1.5-mile track was impressive -- particularly since he outran his truck boss Busch. In just 18 NXS starts, the 19-year-old has scored two wins, eight top fives and 13 top 10 finishes.
“Unfortunately lapped car slowed us down enough for him to get by," Jones said. "It was kind of the situation where whoever was out front was probably going to hold onto it. It was between Mike (Wheeler, crew chief) and I to go with two tires.
"I feel like early in the race it wasn’t too much of a hindrance to go with two. It worked out good and did what we wanted, maybe a little too edgy at the end, a little too free. Our Freightliner Camry was good and we had a shot to win – that’s all we can ask for at the end of the day.”
Paul Menard, Darrell Wallace Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brendan Gaughan and Regan Smith rounded out the top 10.
NXS points leader Chris Buescher finished 11th and extended his lead by 36 points over Chase Elliott.
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