Brad Keselowski claims 30th Cup Series win in overtime at Kansas Speedway
Brad Keselowski claimed his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of 2019 and his 30th-career series win Saturday night in the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway. It was the fourth win of the season for Team Penske, 12 races into the season.
“I am just thankful to be at this level,” Keselowski said. “I never dreamed I would ever be in the Cup Series. I just dreamed of making a living in racing. I worked with guys like Mike Mittler, who taught me the grit and energy and effort you have to have to be successful in this sport. Mike was local to this area, and he passed away yesterday. It hurts to lose guys like that, because they mean so much to me and the sport. I think this was hopefully something he would be proud of.”
The race was extended into overtime when Matt DiBenedetto blew his engine on lap 263. The race was scheduled for 267 laps but ran to 271 after a restart with Keselowski and Erik Jones on the front row.
“Very hectic,” Keselowski said of the late-race restarts. “You know you have to get the draft to get your car up to speed and the bottom lane just does not go. You are cursed if you are on the bottom lane. It is a dog fight for sure.”
Alex Bowman was able to get by Jones in the final two laps for his third-consecutive runner-up finish.
“It’s absolutely a good day for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports,” Bowman said. “We all had really competitive cars and we really appreciate everyone’s hard work to continue to build our cars and continue to get better like we have. It was a really good day. My family is from here, so it would have been pretty cool. Probably the two closest times I have been to winning was my hometown and my dad’s hometown, so it’s just frustrating. We will get one soon.”
Jones finished third and, afterward, was the subject of harsh words from Clint Bowyer, who was angered by being blocked by Jones on the final lap. Bowyer finished fifth, behind Chase Elliott.
“Yeah, that wasn’t very smart,” Bowyer said. “If it had been another scenario where I would have had some room I would have just turned him in front of the whole field, and he would be back there wishing he wouldn’t have done that. Oh well.”
Jones saw the incident as nothing more than hard racing.
“I’d be mad if I was him, but it’s just racing,” Jones said. “I’ve been blocked a lot, especially with this package, and I haven’t done a lot of blocking, so you have to get aggressive and fight for every position. That’s all I was doing at the end of the race. We were taking the white flag, and you’re going for it. It’s unfortunate. You don’t want people upset, but feelings are going to get hurt and you’ll move on and we’ll be fine next week.”
Kevin Harvick and Elliott were the two front runners through the first 160 laps of the race, with Harvick leading a race-high 104 laps after starting from the pole. Harvick was the winner of the first 80 lap stage, and Elliott won the second after starting the race in the back because of inspection failures earlier in the day.
“It was nice running top-5,” Elliott said. “I hate to have been leading the laps that we did and not finish it off, but what do you do. It was unfortunate.”
Harvick lost the lead during a lap-30 competition caution. Because of varying pit strategies, he wound up 10th on the restart. He retook his lead on lap 49.
Meanwhile, Elliott got from the back to the front, partly on the race track and partly through pit strategy. He got into the top-10 during the competition caution and stayed out to retake the lead during a lap-59 caution for a Denny Hamlin spin.
Harvick restarted outside the top-five. On lap 68, he took second and began challenging Elliott for the lead. On lap 72, he took the top spot.
Elliott took first from Harvick during just as a lengthy cycle of green-flag pit stops completed on lap 146.
After the second stage, Harvick was back up front by getting out of the pits first, while a show stop shuffled Elliott to seventh. Elliott seemed to plateau for awhile, and Harvick fell off the pace and made an unscheduled pit stop for perceived flat right-front tire on lap 179.
Harvick fell off the lead lap, getting back on the lead lap with the free pass during a debris caution on lap 239. By that time, Elliott had gotten back up front.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman also led laps before Kese took his race-winning lead on lap 261.
Finishing sixth through 10th Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick and James Buescher. Harvick wound up 13th.
“The first three-quarters of the race was pretty awful for us,” Johnson said. “But the guys kept their head in the game and made some big adjustments and made some good adjustments, and we got back in the mix. We’re still missing some speed, though. So we’ve still got plenty of work to do. I’m pretty frustrated, and we’ve got to try to get on top of things. That’s the bottom line.”
A top-10 finish would’ve given Kyle Busch sole possession of the record for most top-10 finishes to start the season. His string of top-10s was snapped at 11, though. An unscheduled stop for a tire rub on lap 248 resulted in a 30th-place finish.