BRISTOL — Brad Keselowski continued the winning tradition of the “Blue Deuce” at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Making an inside pass of leader Matt Kenseth on lap 390, Keselowski rolled to his second consecutive Sprint Cup victory on the high-banked short track in Sunday’s Food City 500.
The win gave car owner Roger Penske his 10th Bristol win, all of them with drivers in the No. 2 car. Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch won the previous races before Keselowski raced the No. 2 Dodge to the last two Bristol wins.
“I knew this ‘Blue Deuce’ was fast enough to win the race,” Keselowski said. “The last few races have been really good and I knew we had a shot to win one if we ran like we had been.
“What can I say? I love Bristol and Bristol loves me.”
Keselowski led four times for a race-high 232 laps to score his fifth career victory. It was a career-high number of laps led for the Michigan native, whose previous single-race high was 89 in his Bristol win last August.
“This is one of the best races I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I’m thrilled to death to win again at Bristol. This is a earn-it place to win, a place where champions like Dale (Earnhardt), Darrell (Waltrip) and Alan (Kulwicki) win. I’m proud of this one for sure.”
Kenseth, a two-time Bristol winner and former NASCAR champion, stalked Keselowski after losing the lead. He never could pull ahead, finishing 0.714 seconds behind in the No. 17 Ford.
His hopes were dashed when Keselowski chose to pick the high line on a final restart.
“If I had been on the top, maybe I could have pinned him down there,” Kenseth said. “That last run, I was just a little too loose. I could keep up, but that was about it.”
Behind them was a trio of Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas.
Martin Truex Jr. finished third, Clint Bowyer was fourth and Brian Vickers finished fifth.
It marked the first start of the season for Vickers after his previous team, Red Bull Racing, closed its doors during the offseason. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the Thomasville, N.C. native charged his way from a 25th place starting position and led three times for 125 laps.
“When it’s your only run, you have to make it count,” Vickers said. “What an exciting day. I can’t take any of the credit. I’m just proud to be a part of MWR and get three cars in the top five.”
Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard — all driving Chevrolets — finished sixth through 10th.
Several of the race contenders were eliminated in the opening stages of the race.
Regan Smith hit Kasey Kahne on lap 24 to trigger a six-car accident which also collected Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose and Kevin Harvick.
Another favorite, Jeff Gordon, was taken out of contention on lap 360 after contact with Earnhardt.
It led to a curious choice by Keselowski, who moved to the inside line on the following restart. Battling Kenseth over the next 18 laps, he was finally able to make the winning pass.
“It seems like the leader has a low percentage of making the right decision,” he said. “But, we made it through it, came out front and persevered.”