Keselowski takes commanding win in Richmond

Brad Keselowski put on a command performance on Saturday night, solidifying his bid for a second NASCAR title with a victory Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway in the second race of the opening round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Keselowski led a race-high 192 laps including the final 48 to beat out Martin Truex, Jr. and Keselowski’s Penske teammate Joey Logano to power to his fourth victory of the season and 34th of his career, and in the process, automatically punches his ticket to the Round of 12.

Austin Dillon was fourth, follow by Chase Elliott.

It was a profound statement by the 2012 series champion, who hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs in the last two seasons.

“It was a great race for us and the 2 team,” said Keselowski. “I don’t want to look too far ahead.  We’ve got to get there.  The next round is gonna be really difficult, but, still, I’m really pumped about this performance and the way we run at short tracks.

“The last two years I haven’t made it all the way, so we’ve got to get all the way there, but if we can get to Phoenix, we’re gonna be really good.”

Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Keselowski started ninth on the night and wasn’t much of a factor in the opening stage, as Austin Dillon surprised everyone with a strong run up front racing with Denny Hamlin, who scored the win in the first stage. Both drivers would get nabbed for speeding during the ensuing round of pit stops, and spend the first half of the second segment fight their way back through the field.

Keselowski took advantage and led for the first time in the second segment, fighting off charges from Kevin Harvick and resurging Austin Dillon en route to winning the second stage.

In the final 157-lap stage, Keselowski led the opening 50 laps trailed by Logano and Truex, Jr. Keselowski dominated the final stage, losing the lead briefly to Logano following a round of green-flag pit stops on with 92 laps to go and again to Austin Dillon with 50 laps to go before regaining the lead for the final time with a pass on Dillon on lap 353.

From there, Keselowski went nearly unchallenged to the finish, crossing the line 1.5 seconds over Truex, Jr.

Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW NORKOOL Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, races to a 4th place finish. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Saturday night’s race featured just three caution flags – all of them scheduled, including a competition caution on lap 32 and the two stage breaks – leading to many teams having to adjust their pit strategies for long green-flag runs.

“I tell you, it’s a chess game and I got blinders on.  I don’t know what everybody is doing and who is where and who is on what strategy, but Jeremy Bullins, the whole 2 team, excellent performance,” said Keselowski. “We knew this was gonna be a really big pit strategy race, but we had the speed, we had the strategy.  This team today did it all.”

Truex’s runner-up finish was a nice rebound from his disappointing run last week at Darlington, where he and Elliott tangled while battling for the lead late in the race. ….points, despite fighting all race with an ill-handling car.

“Just never really could get the balance right all night,” said Truex, Jr. “It was slow on the short run early and slow on the long run late. Somewhere in between we would be pretty competitive, but we just never could really put it all together. I was really surprised that we ran second with how it felt early in the rave.

“It was a good rebound week. Obviously, want to win every one of them, but if we can run top-two or three every week like we’ve been for a while now, we’ll be where we want to be.”

Following his second-place finish last weekend at Darlington, Austin Dillon followed that up with his second top-five finish in a row with a fourth-place showing at Richmond – enough to bump him up to sixth in the playoff standings, 33 points above the cutoff.

“We had a massive day for stage points, which is going to help us out big picture-wise,” said Dillon, who scored his career-best Richmond finish. “We had a speeding penalty in Stage 1, and to come from the back to the front in that Stage just shows how fast our Chevy was tonight

“This No. 3 team is on fire right now and showing up when it matters.”

Kyle Busch finished sixth, followed by Harvick, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer.

Denny Hamlin struggled to make up ground late in the race and ended the day in 11th-place.

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cars Toyota, and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW NORKOOL Chevrolet, race. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney found no help for their playoff chances, finishing 17th and 19th, respectively, and are now more than 25 points past the cutoff point to make it to the next round, both needed nothing short of a victory next weekend at Bristol in order to advance.

“We have to win next weekend. It is pretty plain and simple,” said Blaney. “With the bad couple of races we have had here to start the playoffs off, we probably need to go out there and win Bristol. That is our mindset. That is our goal. It is our goal every week to win the race but now it is our season on the line. We will see if we can get it done.”

Richmond Results

Fin Str No. Driver Team Laps Status Led
1 9 2 Brad Keselowski (P) Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford 400 Running 192
2 14 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) Bass Pro Shops Toyota 400 Running 0
3 2 22 Joey Logano (P) Shell Pennzoil Ford 400 Running 45
4 3 3 Austin Dillon (P) DOW NORKOOL Chevrolet 400 Running 55
5 12 9 Chase Elliott (P) NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 400 Running 2
6 6 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M’s Toyota 400 Running 4
7 1 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford 400 Running 41
8 10 10 Aric Almirola (P) Smithfield Hometown Original Ford 400 Running 0
9 4 88 Alex Bowman (P) Hero Chevrolet 400 Running 0
10 11 14 Clint Bowyer (P) Ford Performance Racing School Ford 400 Running 0
11 22 8 Tyler Reddick # CAT Rental Store Chevrolet 400 Running 0
12 7 11 Denny Hamlin (P) FedEx Cares Toyota 399 Running 45
13 8 1 Kurt Busch (P) Monster Energy Chevrolet 399 Running 15
14 13 41 Cole Custer # (P) Ford 399 Running 0
15 26 95 Christopher Bell # Rheem Toyota 399 Running 0
16 19 42 Matt Kenseth McDonald’s Chevrolet 399 Running 0
17 16 21 Matt DiBenedetto (P) Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 399 Running 0
18 23 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kroger Chevrolet 398 Running 0
19 15 12 Ryan Blaney (P) Menards/Libman Ford 398 Running 0
20 24 37 Ryan Preece Kleenex Chevrolet 398 Running 0
21 5 24 William Byron (P) Liberty University Chevrolet 398 Running 0
22 17 20 Erik Jones Irwin SPEEDBOR Toyota 398 Running 0
23 21 6 Ryan Newman Guaranteed Rate Ford 397 Running 0
24 25 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford 397 Running 0
25 20 34 Michael McDowell Love’s Travel Plaza Ford 397 Running 0
26 30 43 Bubba Wallace Door Dash Chevrolet 397 Running 0
27 34 32 Corey LaJoie Keen Parts Ford 396 Running 0
28 27 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Chevrolet 396 Running 0
29 28 96 * Daniel Suarez TOYOTA T-TEN Toyota 396 Running 0
30 31 38 John Hunter Nemechek # MDS Trucking Ford 396 Running 0
31 18 48 Jimmie Johnson Ally Chevrolet 395 Running 0
32 33 0 Quin Houff # Trucker Appreciation Chevrolet 390 Running 0
33 29 15 Brennan Poole # Chevrolet 390 Running 1
34 32 27 JJ Yeley(i) Jacob Companies Ford 388 Running 0
35 36 51 Joey Gase(i) Ford 387 Running 0
36 35 77 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 387 Running 0
37 38 53 James Davison Cruz and Associates Chevrolet 385 Running 0
38 37 66 * Timmy Hill(i) CrashClaimsR.US Toyota 100 Rear Hub 0



Social Media Auto Publish Powered By :