Brad Keselowski Avoids Chaos And Captures His First Darlington Victoryby Hunter Thomas September 1, 2018 0 comments
DARLINGTON, S.C. – After Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick tangled on the backstretch, Brad Keselowski cruised to his first victory at Darlington Raceway on Saturday in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200.
While battling for the lead in the closing laps, Chastain and Harvick rubbed doors and crashed along the backstretch to bring out the six and final caution on Lap 112. Keselowski who was in third at the time, was able to avoid the two spinning drivers. On the final restart of the afternoon, Keselowski took off in his Team Penske No. 22 Snap On Ford and held off Cole Custer to claim his first NASCAR national series win at Darlington Raceway.
“Entering today with two tracks that I have never won at on the NASCAR circuit, here and Sonoma, so I really wanted to run this race for that reason,” Keselowski said. “I just haven’t ran all that great here on the Cup level, and I’m trying to get better. This is such a huge confidence booster.”
In the closing laps, Custer tried to chase Keselowski down, but he came up just short in his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 00 Haas Automation Ford. The runner-up finish marks Custer’s third consecutive top-five finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and his eighth top-10 effort in a row.
“For some reason, I can’t get going on restarts,” Custer said. “I just spin the tires, so I don’t know if that’s something we can do transmission wise or if I just need to work on something. I just had that problem all day, so I didn’t get the best restart, and I kind of was able to pull at the start of that run. We had a really good short-run car. I wouldn’t say that we had the best long-run car, but I was trying to save my tires a little bit so we would have something left at the end.”
Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin, and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 were Chase Elliott, Justin Allgaier, Matt Tifft, Ty Dillon and Michael Annett.
Chastain started on the pole and finished 25th after leading a race high of 90 laps. Chastain has been competing for various teams in the NASCAR XFINITY Series over the past eight years. Most recently, he has been racing for Gaffney, South Carolina’s JD Motorsports, but his 130th series start on Saturday at Darlington Raceway marked his first opportunity in a potential race-winning ride as he piloted Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet. Following the race, Chastain said that he respected Harvick and that he didn’t intentionally turn him after the two made contact.
“I’ve never been in this situation with somebody like this,” Chastain said about the tension with Harvick. “I grew up watching, and now I’ve raced against for a couple of years, hit or miss. I’ve never really raced head-to-head with him like this, and I have so much respect for the guy and what he has done. He came from humble beginnings too. I’m hearing some of the things that he is saying – I guess he knows of me, but he doesn’t know me.”
Harvick, who retired from the event in 29th was not too pleased with Chastain following the crash.
“I tried to stay as low as I could and he just rode on my door,” Harvick said. “That’s just a really inexperienced racer and a really bad move there and got the air and got on beside me and just kept going up the race track. I couldn’t do anything with the wheel. So, you’ve got a really inexperienced guy in a really fast car and made a really bad move, and then wrecked me down the back straightaway and hooked me to the right. That’s probably the reason that he’ll never get to drive many of them again.”
Allgaier currently leads Sadler by 16 points in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings.
With their finishes in Darlington, Brandon Jones, Matt Tifft and Ryan Truex are locked in to the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series will visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 8 for the Lilly Diabetes 250. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com
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