Early attrition hits Johnson, Keselowski, Kahne in Kentucky

Barry Cantrell/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

SPARTA, Ky. — With the full moon shining overhead, things got wild early at Kentucky Speedway.

Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were among a list of drivers eliminated in early crashes during Saturday’s Quaker State 400.

Things stayed relatively calm through the opening 80-lap stage, with the yellow flag flying solely for the competition caution on Lap 30 and the end of the stage itself.

At the beginning of Stage 2, things began to get wild.

Three-time Kentucky winner Keselowski was the first contender to fall victim, spinning around on Lap 87 in a crash that also included Johnson and Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer continued on. Keselowski and Johnson, on the other hand, were eliminated, finishing  39th and 40th, respectively.

Afterward, Keselowski voiced frustration with himself and the car the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competes in.

“I just got in an aero wake and it pulled me around,” Keselowski said. “I knew I was in a bad spot. I was trying to lay up but there is only so much you can lay up here because you get ran over from behind. The air pulled me around. It sucks. I feel bad for everyone on the Miller Lite Ford team and I think I tore up two or three other guys and that sucks for them.

“I don’t know. It is kind of a tough spot to be in on these tracks where they are kind of one groove. You can’t just lay up every time. You give up too many spots or get ran over from behind. If you drive in with someone close to you the car just spins out. It just sucks but it is what it is. We have to find a way around it and we didn’t today.”

Johnson was left looking for positives after losing out to an incident beyond his control.

“It’s just dicey on the restarts,” Johnson said. “But we had a strong Lowe’s Chevrolet. I hate it for the guys that we didn’t get a better finish. The car felt great. I feel like we were probably in the position for a good top 5 tonight with all things considered. But, the No. 2 car (Brad Keselowski) got into the corner and he was sideways before we got there.”

Trouble for Kasey Kahne

On the ensuing restart after Keselowski and Johnson’s crash, another Hendrick Motorsports driver was faced with an early exit.

Kasey Kahne and Roush Fenway Racing’s (RFR) Trevor Bayne were fighting for position in Turns 3 and 4 on lap 97 when contact between the two drivers sent them both sailing up the track.

Kahne got the worst of the incident, ending his day with a trip to the garage area. Bayne continued on, only to see his day come to an end after a second crash on Lap 111. Bayne’s left Kentucky with a 37th-place result, with Kahne following in 38th.

“It was just a restart,” Kahne said afterward. “I had a run on the No. 6 and I got under him getting into Turn 1 down the front stretch and he just drove over my front end, pretty simple.”

Bayne didn’t comment on fault for the incident. Instead, he voiced sadness for his RFR team.

“I hate that that happened,” Bayne said. “We were making our way forward with our Roush Performance Products Ford and were knocking on the door of the top-10 before we got all that damage. I hate that we won’t get the result we deserve but we will recover and rebound. This team never gives up and we will get after it again next week in New Hampshire.”

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