CONCORD, N.C. — Clint Bowyer picked up his first win in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Saturday night, winning a fuel mileage race that ended in disaster for points leader Brad Keselowski.
Keselowski dominated Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway but ran out of gas with 58 laps remaining to blow his chance at the victory. He fell a lap down and finished 11th, and had his lead in the standings sliced in half over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Keselowski, who has a seven-point lead over Johnson at the halfway point of the 10-race Chase, immediately gave his Penske Racing team a pep talk over the radio.
"Win some lose some guys, it's all good," he told them.
Keselowski, who also ran out of gas Friday night in the Nationwide Series race because of a fueling error, then asked his crew if he led the most laps Saturday night. Indeed — he led 139 of the 334 — but had little to show for his effort.
"It's blackjack, you're not going to win every hand," he said. "When you got a bad deal you have to try not to have too many chips on the table."
But Keselowski was able to see a silver lining in still finishing 11th.
"It was the worst-case scenario," he said. "We minimized the damage as best we could."
Denny Hamlin finished second and is third in the Chase, 15 points back, and Johnson finished third. Neither felt all that bad for Keselowski.
"Live by the sword, die by the sword," Hamlin said.
"I don't know how much it hurt him at the end of the day," Johnson said. "I've been doing this long enough, too, when you see something happen, in your mind you're like there's an opportunity and before you know it, it happens to you."
The race was the first since 1979 without an Earnhardt as Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat out with a concussion. The announcement was made Thursday after Earnhardt sought medical attention for a lingering headache from the 25-car accident last Sunday at Talladega.
His doctor said he'd also sustained a concussion in an Aug. 29 crash at Kansas.
Regan Smith got the start for Earnhardt, but it was short-lived. The engine in the No. 88 Chevrolet failed during the first third of the race, sending Smith to the garage for the night.