LAS VEGAS — Brad Keselowski passed Kyle Busch with five laps to go Sunday and surged to his second win in three years in the NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway under weird and windy weather conditions.
Keselowski got past teammate Joey Logano and then tracked down Busch, whose right front wheel vibrated and struggled down the stretch. Keselowski, who overcame an early speeding penalty, drove his Team Penske Ford to his first Sprint Cup Series victory of the season and his first in nearly a full year since Fontana in March 2015.
“This is really, really great,” Keselowski said. “It seemed like there were plenty of challenges, whether it was pit road or the weather or cautions. They threw everything they had at us today … but we were able to fight them off and get to Victory Lane.”
Logano finished second and Jimmie Johnson came in third.
Busch finished fourth in the opener of NASCAR’s three-week Southwest swing, falling a few laps shy of completing a weekend sweep. The defending Sprint Cup champ dominated the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.
Keselowski gambled on fuel to win. He also persevered through a lurking storm that blew gale-force winds and light rain onto the desert track. The wind regularly blew debris into the drivers’ grills, getting pole-sitter Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson in the opening laps.
Later, the wind picked up sharply while an apparent dust storm rose on the outskirts of the track, obscuring the view of nearby Nellis Air Force Base and briefly dropping more rain.
“I guess that’s the Wild Wild West, right?” Logano asked. “It was just dusty, grainy, windy. Crazy.”
After Matt Kenseth spun into Chase Elliott in a late wreck that sidelined both cars, Kyle Busch confidently stayed in front off the restart with 35 laps to go.
But Busch reported problems with his wheel, and the Team Penske teammates calmly stalked him before Keselowski surged in front to stay.
“(Kyle Busch) had a really good short-run car, but it fell off on the long run,” Keselowski said. “That is part of this new (low-downforce) package. Some are good on short run and some are good on long run, and we had a really good long-run car today.”
Kenseth couldn’t explain what caused his wreck with Elliott, but he noticed the wind gusts picking up off the restart.
Kenseth, who said he “spun out before I had any idea what happened,” continued his rotten run of luck in a season that he began by losing the Daytona 500 on the last lap.
All three manufacturers have a Cup win through the first three races: Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing won at Daytona, while Johnson paced Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports to victory at Atlanta before Keselowski won for Ford and Team Penske at Las Vegas.
New UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate attended the race about 15 hours after her victory over Holly Holm on the other end of the Las Vegas Strip. Tate cheered on defending Vegas champion Kevin Harvick, whose company manages her career. Harvick finished 17th.