Sunday, May 6, 2012

NASCAR: The Move

Just call it "The Move."

After watching the leader of the race get beat at the finish line in both the Talladega ARCA race on Friday and the Nationwide race on Saturday, Brad Keselowski knew he needed a plan for the last lap of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race – just in case.  

"I thought about it and thought about it -- dreamed about what to do -- and sure enough, going into three, it was just me and Busch,” Keselowski said on television moments after the finish.  “And I knew the move I wanted to pull.”

As the field prepared for what would be its final restart, Matt Kenseth, who led 78 of 188 laps in dominating much of the race, picked the high line so he would be in front of teammate Greg Biffle.  He led the same tandem to victory in the Daytona 500.  Only this time Kenseth got away from Biffle.  And as he rode his brakes waiting for Biffle to catch up, Keselowski, pushed by Kyle Busch, shot past into the lead.

It was an unlikely combination, Keselowski and Busch, the type of hookup only seen during the final laps of Talladega or Daytona.   During prerace self-introductions at Bristol a few years back, Keselowski introduced himself and then added, “Kyle Busch is an ass.”  Not exactly friends. 
But there was Busch, pushing Keselowski with everything he had.  Busch had been the leader going into the final lap of the Nationwide race the day before, only to watch as his pusher, Joey Logano drive past him at the finish line.  Now he figured he was in perfect position to do the same to Keselowski.  Only instead of hugging the classic inside line and waiting for Busch to make his move, Keselowski drove high into turn three.
It was a bold move.  By going high he hoped to break contact with Busch, then motor home for the win.  Of course there was a risk.  If Busch didn’t break off, they could both end up in the wall.  But then that’s always a distinct possibility in the final laps at Talladega.
Busch seemed to realize he may have been snookered even before Keselowski said a word about The Move.
“I'm not sure he did anything,” Busch said on television immediately after the finish.  “If he did, he's pretty smart, but I think our stuff just came unplugged."
Turns out Keselowski is pretty smart.
"I went into turn three high and pulled down off of Kyle and broke the tandem up,” he said.  “That allowed me to drive untouched to the checkered flag. It wasn't easy to convince myself to do that, but it was the right move. I'm glad it worked."
Busch wasn't exactly happy to hear Keselowski’s explanation.
“I must have screwed something up, because we got to turn three and came unhooked,” Busch said in the media center after he had awhile to think about the finish.  “Just gave the win away over there.  Not sure exactly what happened.  We definitely need to go back and figure out what it was.”
Keselowski already figures he’ll need to come up with something new for the next race.
“Those are the kind of moves, similar to the move I made here in the 09, that you get one chance to make,” he said.  “From there, everybody knows how to make it work. I'm sure everybody will wise up on it from here and they'll make their moves earlier, which will change the racing again.
"It's just evolution. You get one shot to be that guy that helps to evolve it. We had the opportunity to do that today and that's part of what helped us win the race."
Keslowski declined a media request to name the move.  Y'all can pick a name for it,” he said.  “I ain't about that. You guys come up with good ones. You're all writers. You guys got the best puns there is.”
Someone suggested shake-and-bake.  But let’s keep it simple. 
Just call it “The Move.”

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