Well, it wasn’t Brad Keselowski. The Team Penske driver won the very first race of the 2016 NASCAR season, but it was Kyle Busch who stole the show last night at Kokomo Speedway in Kokomo, Indiana. And his crew chief, Adam Stevens, had a lot to do with it.
Kokomo is located in northern Indiana about an hour north of Indianapolis. The 1.25-mile intermediate track is famous for its tri-oval shape. Which makes it a little different from a traditional oval. The outside wall is completely different too. The backstretch of the track is extremely long. So, when you think about it, the car is almost always moving. There are just so many options for different line choices and drive to the checkered flag. The racetrack has a unique look, a vintage feel. It’s one of the prettiest tracks in NASCAR. And that’s a compliment.
Keselowski took the early lead from Kyle Busch, but Ryan Blaney got by Keselowski and passed him to take the top spot. Then, Busch fell back into the second position. Kevin Harvick followed Blaney into the pits for a loose wheel change. But he stayed out on the race track. He drove down the backstretch, got by Blaney, and took the lead away from Harvick. The first seven or eight laps were all Busch. Then, Keselowski moved up into the second position. Blaney and Harvick battled for the second position for a few laps before Harvick moved in front of Blaney for good. Busch went through the gears as Ryan Newman stayed close behind him. But Busch dropped back to fifth place as Newman passed him for fourth place.
On the final lap, Newman tried to pass Busch to take the lead. But they both raced down the backstretch together. Newman made the pass and took the lead away from Busch. But Keselowski drew ahead of Newman and took the win. And that was that. It was a crazy race. Even more people were present at the race than usual, which makes the whole thing even more special. The grandstands were packed and it seemed like everybody in the area was in attendance. At least, that’s what Twitter said. It was certainly an emotional win for Keselowski, who won the very first race of the season despite starting from the rear of the grid. It was his best finish of the season so far and he dedicated the win to his father, who had passed away earlier this year.
What It Means
Last night’s race was very successful as far as the team is concerned. They are now tied for the lead in the race for the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series season opener with three races left to go. It couldn’t have gone any better. Especially since they didn’t really have anything to do with it.
Keselowski’s win last night was a great moment for him and his team. He didn’t have much going for him this season, except for maybe a few strong performances here and there. But, last night, everything came together for one amazing moment.
Keselowski is one of the most successful open-wheel racers in history. He’s won 27 races in the IndyCar Series. He’s also won four poles and five titles. He’s been named the IndyCar Series most valuable player twice. Those are some stats. And he’s done all that in the last five years. It was a Cinderella season for Mr. Keselowski. And it could be a turning point in his career.
Last night wasn’t just any other win for Team Penske either. It was a win that could change the trajectory of the season. After starting from the pole, Keselowski was able to hold off a hard-charging Kyle Busch to take the win. Even more impressive is that he did it in his very first race back since the death of his father. He dedicated this season’s win to his father, who passed away in May of this year. It was just an incredible race from start to finish.
In other news, there were some big name players who missed out on the podium last night. In fact, there were a few surprises, which makes it interesting to watch the race again, knowing what went down. But, anyway, the main takeaway from last night is that Team Penske and Kyle Busch are back in the thick of things. And it doesn’t look like either one of them is going to let the season pass without a fight.