Brad Keselowski earns third consecutive win in chaotic playoff opener

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Brad Keselowski earns third consecutive win in chaotic playoff opener
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Sep 16, 2018, 11:07 PM

Brad Keselowski’s third consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series had other important connotations.

Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Autotrader
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Autotrader
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Autotrader
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Shell Pennzoil
Justin Allgaier, JR Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro BRANDT Professional Agriculture and Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Shell Pennzoil
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry 5-hour ENERGY
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro DC Solar Vegas Strong
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro DC Solar Vegas Strong

Keselowski’s win over Kyle Larson in Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the 500th victory for Team Penske and owner Roger Penske.

Also, the victory locks Keselowski into the second round of the NASCAR playoffs regardless of his performance in the next two races at Richmond, Va., and the Roval course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The win is Keselowski’s 27th of his career and third at Las Vegas. He is the third series driver to win three consecutive wins this season.

“I didn’t think it was ever gonna end. I was worried about running out of gas there at the end," Keselowski said after the win in overtime. "I know the fans can hear on this microphone and I want to say thank you to everyone who braved 100 degree heat all day. You guys are the real heroes. I get paid to do this. You guys pay to watch and thank you for doing that. Thank you for coming out today and tolerating the heat. 

"We’re so glad to be able to win and get in Victory Lane again with the Autotrader Ford. What a special day for 500 wins for Penske, three in a row here, first win in the playoffs.  There are too many story lines for me to get it all right, but we’re very thankful and very proud for all of them.”

Asked if he's ever been on a roll like the one he is now, Keselowski said,

"I don’t know if we’ve ever had a team that was this strong on pit road before. This is the best we’ve ever been on pit road and that made a huge, huge difference today. 

"I’m very thankful for that.”

Martin Truex Jr. finished third, Joey Logano was fourth and Ryan Blaney completed the top-five.

Completing the Top 10 were Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard.

Final stage begins

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, Keselowski was the first off pit road but several drivers elected not to pit, which left Jamie McMurray in the lead the final stage went green on Lap 167. He was followed by Larson, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch and Menard.

During pit stops, Alex Bowman was penalized by NASCAR for an uncontrolled tire.

Larson quickly got around McMurray on the restart to take the lead for the first time in the race.

Keselowski, who had pit for new tires during the break, finally ran down Larson and reclaimed the lead at the start of Lap 178.

On Lap 183, rookie William Byron appeared to blow a right-front tire and hit the wall, which brought out a caution. All of the lead-lap cars elected to pit for tires and fuel with Keselowski once again the first to exit pit road.

On the restart with 80 laps to go in the race, Keselowski led the way followed by Larson, Truex, Logano and McMurray.

With 65 laps remaining in the race, Truex made his way to the inside of Keselowski and reclaimed the lead. Logano ran in third, Larson fourth and Blaney fifth.

Carnage ensues

On Lap 213, McMurray hit the wall in Turn 3 and Chase Elliott had nowhere to go, piling into him. Both car experienced major damage. Elliott at this point is the third NASCAR playoff contender to get collected in a wreck in the race.

“I slid up and hit the wall. I only made it like two more laps before the tire blew out,” McMurray said.

After a round of pit stops, Keselowski again was the first off pit road and reclaimed the race lead. The race returned to green on Lap 223, Keselowski led the way followed by Logano, Larson and Blaney.

On the restart, Logano powered past his teammate and into the lead. Keselowski dropped to second and Truex ran in third.

With 34 to go, Kyle Busch appeared to spinout off Turn 4 after blowing a tire and then plowed into the infield grass, doing extensive damage to his No. 18 Toyota. All of the lead-lap cars elected to pit for new tires.

Keselowski, as he had much of the race, was the first off pit road and reclaimed the race lead when it returned to green with 30 laps remaining. He was followed by Truex, Logano, Larson and Blaney.

Keselowski, Truex and Larson went three-wide battling for the lead on the restart with Larson moving out front with 29 to go.

Denny Hamlin spun off Turn 4 with 21 laps left and also took a ride into the infield grass, tearing up his No. 11 Toyota as the race was slowed by another caution. Hamlin was the fifth playoff contender to experience problems in the race.

The race returned to green with 17 laps left and Larson in the lead.

As the leaders raced three-wide, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked on Lap 252 to force another caution, just after Keselowski reclaimed the lead. On the restart with 11 laps to go, Keselowski led the way, followed by Logano, Larson and Truex.

In the scramble for the second position after the restart, Johnson hit the wall and fell off the pace. He had been running in the top-five.

Debris in Turn 3 brought out another caution with six laps remaining. The race returned to green with two to go and Keselowski leading the way.

On the restart, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan and Michael McDowell got collected in a wreck through Turns 3 and 4, which brought out a red flag to clean the track and sent the race into overtime.

At the start of overtime, Keselowski led the way followed by Logano, Truex, Blaney and Larson.

From the editor, also read:

Cla # Driver 4506 Laps Time Laps Led
1 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 272   75
2 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 272 1.276 24
3 78 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 272 1.331 96
4 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 272 1.495 46
5 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 272 2.332  
6 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 272 2.343  
7 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 272 2.365 1
8 19 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 272 2.469  
9 31 United States Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 272 2.619  
10 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 272 2.623  
11 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 272 2.653  
12 95 United States Regan Smith  Chevrolet 272 3.029 10
13 6 United States Trevor Bayne  Ford 272 3.037  
14 47 United States A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 272 3.252  
15 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 272 3.690  
16 72 United States Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 272 3.706  
17 23 United States J.J. Yeley  Toyota 272 4.443  
18 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 272 6.610  
19 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 271 1 lap  
20 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 271 1 lap  
21 41 United States Kurt Busch  Ford 271 1 lap  
22 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 270 2 laps  
23 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 270 2 laps  
24 32 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 269 3 laps  
25 96 United States Jeffrey Earnhardt  Toyota 269 3 laps  
26 99 United States Kyle Weatherman  Chevrolet 269 3 laps  
27 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 268 3 laps  
28 51 United States B.J. McLeod  Ford 268 4 laps  
29 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 265 7 laps  
30 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 251 21 laps  
31 7 United States Reed Sorenson  Chevrolet 246 26 laps  
32 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 245 27 laps 1
33 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 231 41 laps  
34 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 218 54 laps  
35 1 United States Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 211 61 laps 5
36 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 211 61 laps  
37 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 210 62 laps  
38 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 164 108 laps  
39 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 147 125 laps 14
40 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 147 125 laps 1
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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Las Vegas II
Drivers Brad Keselowski
Teams Team Penske
Author Jim Utter
Article type Race report