KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. was charging again, hoping that this time he'd be on top of a frantic late fuel-mileage battle.
Leader Brad Keselowski stretched his fuel perfectly, dashing Earnhardt's hopes of snapping his 106-race winless streak while ending his own.
Keselowski held off Earnhardt to win yesterday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway for his first victory since taking Talladega 75 races ago.
Keselowski led the final nine laps, conserving just enough fuel to stave off Earnhardt. It's the second Sprint Cup win in 66 races for Keselowski - and the first for Penske Racing since Kurt Busch won last year's Coca-Cola 600.
"We finally caught a break. Awesome call, Paul," Keselowski radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe, who guided him to the Nationwide Series championship and moved up to the Cup Series this year to help the driver rebound from last year's rocky season.
Earnhardt finished second for the second week in a row in a fuel-mileage race. Earnhardt appeared to have enough to make a late charge on Keselowski. That push never came - though Earnhardt did move up to third in the points standings. Denny Hamlin was third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards, who holds a 40-point lead on Jimmie Johnson in the standings.
Polesitter Kurt Busch led for 152 laps and finished ninth. He had to stop for gas as the leader with 10 laps remaining.
"I was all smiles. I felt the groove again, to lead the race. It was great, it was solid. There was always something in the back of my mind that we weren't going to win, but I am proud Brad Keselowski did," Kurt Busch said.
Keselowski won the pole last week at Charlotte and has been on a monthlong upswing for Penske. He seemed to come to life just as teammate Kurt Busch reached his wits end, with his displeasure culminating in an expletive-laden rant against team management.
The buzz before the Sprint Cup race was about the altercation between team owner Richard Childless and Kyle Busch that followed Saturday's Trucks Series race.
NASCAR said Busch did nothing to violate his probation, clearing the driver of any fault in the incident that president Mike Helton deemed "unacceptable." Childless, though, had his track access restricted and will be subject to further penalty this week.