Brad Keselowski Captures Third Consecutive Victory With Playoff Win In Las Vegasby Hunter Thomas September 17, 2018 0 comments
LAS VEGAS – Brad Keselowski held off the field in NASCAR Overtime at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday to win his third consecutive race and capture Team Penske’s 500th overall victory.
The impressive winning streak began at Darlington Raceway as Keselowski won the 69th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 34-year-old Michigan native won the prestigious Brickyard 400. On Sunday, Keselowski kicked-off the NASCAR Playoffs with a win in the South Point 400 after leading 75 laps and outrunning the field following a NASCAR Overtime restart.
“We’re so glad to be able to win and get in Victory Lane again with the Autotrader Ford,” Keselowski said. “What a special day for 500 wins for Penske, three in a row here, first win in the Playoffs. There are too many storylines for me to get it all right, but we’re very thankful and very proud for all of them.”
On the final restart of the afternoon, Keselowski lined up on the inside with teammate Logano on the outside. When the green flag flew, Keselowski took off, but it was Logano who spun his tires, allowing for Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and others to pass by. With clean air, Keselowski held a significant lead as the field headed down the backstretch with two laps to go, and on the final lap, he cruised to his 27th-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. With the win, Keselowski will advance to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs.
“The 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was clearly the best car, and we put everything together when it counted, and kind of stole it today,” Keselowski said. “Same scenario the last two weeks. I thought the 42 (Kyle Larson) was the best car in Darlington, and we hit the strategy right and executed the last pit stop and that put us in position to win. And in Indy we were nowhere near probably even a top‑10 car. We were probably a 15th‑place car, and Paul Wolfe (crew chief) hit the strategy right and I hit the restart right to make all the passes when it counted and won that race. With that in mind, no, I feel like we stole the last three races. We’re not complaining, but we still have a lot of work to do to go out there and win heads up without those issues.”
Kyle Larson who was a strong contender in the closing laps was able to finish second in his Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 DC Solar Vegas Strong Chevrolet. Larson battled Keselowski for a number of laps in Stage 3, but the late-race cautions kept Larson from sustaining his momentum on the high side of the track. Ultimately, he just didn’t have the best short run car of the afternoon.
“Yeah, the restarts a couple of them worked out for me and a couple of them didn’t,” Larson said. “But, was happy to end up second there. Didn’t really expect to get to second there on that final restart, but it was pretty hectic. Just glad we had a good day after the tire issue we had early in the race. So, yeah, good points day.”
Truex Jr. led a race high of 96 laps in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, but similar to Larson, the numerous late-race cautions hindered his performance. He needed the clean air and the rhythm to stay out in front of the field. Truex was really fast on the long runs on Sunday but not the short runs.
“It took the race from us, no question,” said Truex about the late-race restarts. “With 15 laps or so we could take the lead and drive away. We were actually a little too good on the long run, I wish maybe we could have gone the other direction a little bit and still been able to get the lead. If we were the leader, we could do okay, I could maintain, but when I was second or third or fourth, it just made me tight enough that I had to wait for the thing to come to me or wait for other guys to start getting off the bottom in front of me. All in all it was a great day for everybody on the Bass Pro/5-hour ENERGY Camry and all the guys did a phenomenal job this weekend.
Logano went from restarting second to finishing fourth. His teammate, Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 was Almirola, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard.
The South Point 400 featured plenty of action. The caution flag flew on 12 occasions for 59 laps; however, one of the main headlines leaving Las Vegas were the NASCAR Playoff contenders who found trouble throughout the race. Seven of the NASCAR Playoff contenders finished outside of the top-20.
Kevin Harvick blew a tire and nailed the outside wall in Turn 1. With nowhere to go, Erik Jones ran into the back of Harvick. The accident brought out the fourth caution of the day on lap 149. Harvick finished 39th, while Jones finished dead last in 40th.
“Well, there was something wrong from the time we put the tires on,” Harvick said. “It was like Russian roulette every time you put these piece of crap tires on and try to drive around the race track. One time it is tight, one time it is loose, one time they are blistered. We had a great car and then you put a set of tires on it and you can’t hardly make it through the field. I just hate it for everyone on our Mobil 1 Ford.”
In Stage 3, Chase Elliott’s day ended when he wasn’t able to avoid Jamie McMurray who spun in front of him. McMurray cut down a right rear tire and spun into the outside wall in Turn 3. Elliott clipped the front of McMurray’s car and smacked the outside wall. Elliott finished 36th.
“We had a really good car today and yeah, almost, just barely clipped him,” Elliott said. “I just hate it. So many guys fell out today. I feel like half the top 16 has crashed. So, we’ve just got to finish, I guess.”
Denny Hamlin’s day ended after he spun through the grass, bringing out the ninth caution of the afternoon. As Hamlin’s car transitioned from the track to the grass, the nose of the car was absolutely destroyed. He finished 32nd.
“Trying to get more than the car was capable of,” Hamlin said. “We should have just finished 15th or 10th or wherever we were at the time, but trying to get more and the car won’t handle it. No grip and just a bad day overall.”
Alex Bowman found the outside wall and finished 19th. Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer finished 21st, 22nd and 23rd respectively due to issues that they faced in Stage 3.
Following the South Point 400, Johnson, Elliott, Jones and Hamlin are the four drivers below the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowman is 12th in the standings, only six points to the good. Bowyer is 11th, and he’s only seven points up. Austin Dillon is 10th, nine points to good. All of the other contenders are at least 12 or more points ahead of Johnson.
The second race of the Round of 16 will be held at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 22. Live coverage of the Federated Auto Parts 400 will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
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