CONCORD, N.C. — It was just another surreal moment in this disappointing season for defending champion Brad Keselowski.
He pulled away from his pit stall with his jack planted underneath his car. The jack clattered and clanged as Keselowski dragged it around the track for what should have been one race-ruining lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Instead, Keselowski finally caught a break.
A late caution – one that ruined Jimmie Johnson’s shot at a record seventh Sprint Cup Series win at Charlotte – gave Keselowski the chance to make an electric final dash to the finish and end a 37-race losing streak Saturday night. It gave the reigning champ his first victory of the season in a year in which he’s challenged for victories, but for one reason or another couldn’t close the deal.
It made him ineligible to defend his championship, so Keselowski’s win was the rare victory for a non-Chase driver in a “postseason” race. Kasey Kahne at Phoenix in 2011 was the last non-Chase winner.
“We’ve had speed in our cars. There’s been weeks where we’ve had the execution, not as many as we want, but we haven’t always had those pieces together, and then there’s been weeks where we’ve had the speed and execution, we’ve just had some rotten luck,” Keselowski said. “It’s just been one of those years where you say, ‘How much more can they throw at you?’ I think we ran out of things for them to throw at us ... with the jack and we still found a way to win, so that was very special.”
FORMULA ONE: In Suzuka, Japan, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday but will have to wait to seal a fourth consecutive Formula One title as nearest rival Fernando Alonso finished fourth.
Vettel surged into the lead on the 41st lap and led a Red Bull one-two ahead of teammate Mark Webber by 7.1 seconds. Webber, who started from pole position, passed Lotus’ Romain Grosjean on the penultimate lap. Grosjean led much of the race but could not take his maiden F1 victory and finished third.
It was Vettel’s fourth win in the past five races at Suzuka and his ninth win of the season.