Keselowski Beats Flu And Truex, Jr. For Atlanta Victory
Keselowski powered around teammate Joey Logano with 32 laps left to go, and then held off a late charge by Martin Truex, Jr. to score the win.
It’s his 28th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and his second at Atlanta.
In addition, it gives Ford the first win in the new Mustang.
It came on a weekend that Logano battled stomach flu that put him out of the car for final practice, with Austin Cindric piloting the No. 2 Ford in that session.
But Keselowski climbed back into the car for Sunday’s race, and drove it into victory lane in the end.
Despite the earlier ailments, Keselowski said in victory lane that he was feeling “good enough to get the job done.”
The win was a tough one, and not just due to the flu. With 50 laps to go, Keselowski hit a piece of debris that sent his engine temperatures soaring.
“We ran over a piece of debris with, I don't know, probably 50 laps to go and overheated really bad, and I thought there was no way this engine would make it to the end, but Doug Yates and his team, they do a great job. I'm pretty sure it's all used up, Doug, but it's in Victory Lane, so that's okay, right?”
Keselowski had made his final pit stop when a caution flew for a collision between Ryan Preece and B.J. McLeod. Logano and Kurt Busch had not pitted, putting the rest of the field a lap down. Keselowski got the free pass, putting him back on the lead lap, and putting him in contention to fight for the win.
Over the closing laps, Truex, Jr. began closing on him, but could not seal the deal as Keselowski toughed it out for the win.
The victory breaks a tie with Mark Donahue for all-time wins with Team Penske with 60 victories.
“But what a tremendous honor. This day is - wow, I don't even know how to put it in words. I'm just excited for this team, first race with the new rules or whatever they're called now, and to be able to win it, that's really special, as well, and I know everybody here is excited about that, and just a great day overall for Team Penske and our Ford Mustang.”
Truex, Jr. finished in second, and voiced his frustrations afterwards with lapped traffic during the race.
“Hell, I still ran down the 2 (Keselowski) in two laps from half a straightaway. We clearly had the best car and were in position to win. Guys a lap down have to have a little more respect than that.”
Kurt Busch finished in third, and was in the mix late in the going.
“To finish third on our second outing together and to run with the who’s-who of the sport just shows Ganassi’s got the right stuff. Larson had a tough break. We called a good break to get on the lead lap with Logano and to race in the top five at the end, but all in all, for us to get gelled together to learn what loose and tight was, but man, I just struggled in turns 3 and 4 and that’s where I got arm-wrestled. They took us but hey, we’re top five in this kind of run.”
Kevin Harvick came home in fourth, with Clint Bowyer in fifth.
With teams getting their first crack at the new series rules package in this race, it was an up and down race, with lots of drivers gaining and losing ground throughout the event back in the pack. Meanwhile, it seemed like being in the front of the field was a sure way to hold your position.
But for some drivers, being the leader didn’t work out. Kyle Larson led 142 laps, winning the first segment in the process. But a pit road speeding penalty during a lap 222 caution mired him back in the field. He would eventually finish 12th.
It was a similar situation for Ryan Blaney. The Team Penske driver powered to the lead on the subsequent restart from the lap 222 caution. He would pace the field until hitting pit road under green just before the McLeod-Preece incident. Blaney’s team would have issues on that stop, taking him out of contention. He would finish the day in 22nd place.
Logano had the lead late, but a vibration due to a loose wheel brought him to pit road with a handful of laps to go, and he would finish 23rd.
Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top ten finishers on the day.
MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Qualifying Position: 2nd
Are you frustrated you couldn’t get to the lead at the end?
“Yeah, I’m a lot frustrated, you know – lapped cars. They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame. We lined up on that last restart behind all those guys that are a lap down and I know they were racing for the lucky dog, which is all good, but once they got strung out, the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) had a straightaway on all of me and he just wouldn’t let me by. He just kept hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom and knew that’s where I needed to run. I kept telling – my spotter kept telling his we need the bottom. These cars punch such a big hole and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him. Hell, I still ran down the 2 (Brad Keselowski) in two laps from half a straightaway. We clearly had the best car and were in position to win. Guys a lap down have to have a little more respect than that.”
Second-place finish, but you’re very frustrated. Why?
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