Brad Keselowski Makes Late Pass On Denny Hamlin To Earn Historic Indy Win For Penske

by September 10, 2018 0 comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Following his first victory at Darlington Raceway, Brad Keselowski battled Denny Hamlin in the closing laps of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at The Brickyard on Monday to claim Team Penske’s first-ever victory in the prestigious race.

It was a historic win in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 last weekend as Keselowski claimed Team Penske’s first win at Darlington Raceway since 1975. Fast forward to Monday, and the 34-year-old Michigan native captured Team Penske’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track where team owner Roger Penske has celebrated 17 Indianapolis 500 wins.

Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford said, “With Roger Penske getting his first Cup win here and myself getting the first Cup win here, at such a historic racetrack that means so much to all of motorsports, so for us to have our name on that win list sure does mean a lot to me. I can tell you that.

“And then you look at some of the other things we have going on, about to enter the playoffs, of course having those few extra playoff bonus points, you never know when you’re going to need those. You just can’t ever predict it. Having five more of those sure does make us feel good about the next 10 weeks ahead.”

With just two laps to go on Monday, Keselowski rubbed doors with Hamlin as they raced down the long backstretch battling for the lead. While the two drivers exited the high-speed Turn 3, contact was made again, and this time, Keselowski was able to prevail out of Turn 4. After leading only nine laps throughout the afternoon, Keselowski cruised to victory, earning his second win of the season.

“I got a little bit of a run on him (Denny Hamlin) off of Turn 4 with 2 to go and got right up behind him through (Turns) 1 and 2 and eventually as able to just barely take a peek underneath him off of 2 and try to get a run,” Keselowski said. “We held each other pretty tight entering (Turn) 3, and I knew going into Turn 3 underneath him that with no air on the right side of the car, I was just going to wreck us both. I had to let him go and try to make another run at him for Turn 4, and that’s what we were able to do. I was able to just get in there and kind of dig position into Turn 4, and it stuck. I was able to clear him, and gosh, that was one of the best things I ever heard in my life was clear off of Turn 4 at Brickyard coming to the white flag.”

The battle between Keselowski and Hamlin, allowed for Erik Jones to slide by into the second position. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver kept his teammate at bay en route to finishing second. While piloting the No. 20 Toyota, the runner-up effort marked Jones’ third consecutive top-10 finish and his best-ever effort at Indianapolis Motor Speedway while.

“I was hoping to be a little bit closer to the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 2 (Brad Keselowski) when they were side by side to get a big run, but we weren’t quite close enough to do that,” Jones said. “A strong day. A race like we needed to have when we’re in the playoffs – when we’re not a car that can contend, just persevere and make the most of what we can and that’s what we did today.”

Although he led 37 laps on Monday, Hamlin crossed the brick finish line in third after he lost momentum following Keselowski’s race-winning pass coming to get the white flag. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Possibilities Toyota believed that the late-race caution on Lap 155 is what cost him the victory on Monday.

“I had the race pretty well in hand,” Hamlin said. “Landon Cassill wrecked for no apparent reason at the end and then we just got roughed up by the 2 (Brad Keselowski) there at the end – on new tires. Very unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes cautions don’t fall your way. We were able to survive the first few, but allowed those guys to – with all those cautions and meaningless wrecks – to the guys on new tires to be right on us and that’s what happened.”

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Rounding out the top-10 on Monday was Jamie McMurray, regular season champion Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman.

There were a total of 10 cautions during the 160-lap race, and three were for multi-car accidents.

On Lap 59, the fifth caution of the afternoon came out when Darrell Wallace Jr. spun in Turn 3. As he slid back down the banking, BJ McLeod went for a spin, and David Starr with nowhere to go, nailed Wallace’s No. 43 Chevrolet.

Not long after the field went back to green, Alex Bowman and AJ Allmendinger collided and crashed in Turn 3 to bring out the sixth caution of the race.

The final multi-car accident occurred on Lap 155 in Turn 3 when contact with Landon Cassill sent Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car airborne before landing on all four tires.

The field for the NASCAR Playoffs has now been set. Sixteen drivers competing for this year’s title include Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman.

The 2018 NASCAR Playoffs will get underway on Sunday, September 16 as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will visit Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the South Point 400. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) 3 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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