KANSAS CITY, Kan. —Nobody told Brad Keselowski he was leading the race and he was mad.
Needless to say, all is forgiven.
Keselowski inherited the lead of Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway with nine of 267 laps remaining, but realized he was leading with two to go only when he saw his car number atop the scoring pylon.
He was the first of three drivers (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin were the others) who would not need to make a green-flag fuel stop in the final laps, and he was the first to cross the finish line.
"I kind of stretched my neck out, barely caught the scoring pylon to see I was leading. I was instantly mad at my guys for not telling me, but you get over that pretty quick when you cross the finish line first," Keselowski said.
"It didn't really affect me, whether I knew I was leading or not. It was probably really smart of them not to tell me that because I probably would have drove it really, really hard."
Instead, when Keselowski took the lead, he was more than 10 seconds ahead of Earnhardt, who was in position — for a second consecutive week, in a second consecutive race being decided by fuel mileage — to snap his longest winless streak.
The margin was wide enough that Keselowski was able to throttle back and save fuel, although it turned out he had more than enough to finish, then do a victory burnout on the frontstretch.
The win is Keselowski's second in Cup competition and first with Penske Racing. His first was in 2009 when he ran a limited schedule with Phoenix Racing.
Keselowski gained four spots in the series standings and is now 21st, but the victory puts him in line for one of the two Chase spots reserved for race winners.
Keselowski would also have to be in the top 20. He currently trails 20th-place Paul Menard by seven points.
"It's certainly doable," the driver said. "It makes you look back at races like Daytona and Talladega here earlier in the year where we wrecked out and those are wild-card races.
"Just one or two of those races back and we are easily in the top 20. But that's not the way it is."
Penske Racing had all of the bases covered Sunday as Keselowski's teammate, Kurt Busch, dominated much of the race. Busch led 152 laps, but had to stop for fuel late and stalled his car on pit road. He still finished ninth.
"This is a heart-breaker, but I'm real excited about how our car ran today," Busch said. "It's a big switch after Richmond. Sometimes you shake the apple cart and things fall."
Team owner Roger Penske was not certain his organization's recent improvement could be easily explained.
"I don't think that anyone making comments publicly or internally are going to turn the team around in two or three weeks," Penske said.
"When you've got two drivers and probably 30 cars, you can't just do things overnight because we don't run the same car (every race) like we do on the IndyCar side. I think it's progress."
Earnhardt continues to progress and although his winless streak has now reached 106 races, he is third in the standings and seems closer each week to a victory.
On Sunday, he spun on Lap 153, which brought out a caution and put him on a different strategy than most teams. His crew chief, Steve Letarte, almost immediately began calculating how they could use that to their advantage.
"We had a good car. We just didn't have a second-place car, not at all, but we had a top-10 car," Earnhardt said.
"We could have had a caution (late in the race) and changed everybody's strategy, but it worked out for us right to the end."
Hamlin finished third, Jeff Gordon was fourth and series points leader Carl Edwards was fifth.
For a while Hamlin believed he and Earnhardt were the only one who could make it to the end without stopping.
"I thought me and (Earnhardt) were the only ones on that fuel strategy. When he passed me I thought that was for the win," Hamlin said. "So (Keselowski) evidently saved a lot of fuel."