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Keselowski Survives to Win Opening Round in Vegas

500th Win for Team Penske
Sunday, September 16, 2018

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Brad Keselowski celebrates his third-straight Cup Series victory
Sam Wasson/Getty Images

In a war of attrition that caused a multitude of problems for the majority of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski emerged unscathed with his third straight victory in the series and the 500th triumph for Team Penske in all forms of racing combined.

Sunday's South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Playoff opener for NASCAR's foremost series, went to overtime, lasting five laps longer than the scheduled 267. But Keselowski held the top spot through three tension-laden restarts to beat runner-up Kyle Larson to the finish line by 1.276 seconds on the final two-lap shootout.

With his third victory of the season, his third at  Las Vegas and the 27th of his career, Keselowski guaranteed himself a spot in the second round of the Playoffs.

"Team Penske—500 wins today," Keselowski said. "It's a huge day for the Captain (team owner Roger Penske). I expect he's watching (from the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway). Hey, boss!

"To start off the Playoffs with a win is really strong. I know it's three in a row and all that great stuff, but it's really a testament to this team… We weren't as fast as the 78 car (third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr.), but we nailed the pit stops and the restarts."

Most of the 16 Playoff contenders just got nailed—and decisively.

Kevin Harvick, the series leader in victories with seven this year, blew a tire on Lap 148 and rocketed into the Turn 1 wall. Pole winner Erik Jones, running behind Harvick, couldn't avoid the wreck and plowed into Harvick's Ford. Both cars were eliminated, with Harvick finishing 39th and Jones 40th.

In a similar incident in Turn 4 on Lap 212, Chase Elliott was collected against the outside wall when Jamie McMurray's Chevrolet turned sideways in front of him. Elliott fell out of the race in 36th place.

Denny Hamlin's spin off Turn 4 on Lap 247 caused the ninth caution and subsequent restart that allowed Keselowski to take the lead from Larson, who had passed the No. 2 Team Penske Ford on Lap 245 and had the long-run speed to win the race, had the event stayed incident-free to the finish.

Jimmie Johnson showed some of his best speed of the season, but his No. 48 Chevrolet sustained heavy damage in a Lap 257 accident that also involved Playoff drivers Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch. Johnson, a seven-time series champion, finished 22nd, two laps down, one position behind Busch and one ahead of Bowyer.

Bowman came home 19th and currently occupies the 12th position in the standings, with the Playoff field set to be cut from 16 drivers to 12 two races hence at Charlotte.

Kyle Busch survived contact with the outside wall, a spin through the infield grass and damage to the front of his No. 18 Toyota to finish seventh.

Truex, who won the first stage, took the series lead by two points over Kyle Busch. Keselowski is 18 points back in third place, with Harvick 27 points behind in fourth, thanks to the 50 Playoff points he accumulated during the regular season.

The four drivers currently on the outside when it comes to advancing to the next round are Johnson, Elliott, Jones and Hamlin.

Five of the race's 12 cautions came in the last 40 laps, as the accidents took their toll on one Playoff driver after another.

Brad Keselowski takes the checkered flag in Vegas
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

"I didn't think it was ever going to end," said Keselowski, the third driver to win three consecutive races this season, joining Harvick and Kyle Busch. "I was worried about running out of gas there at the end."

Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney ran fourth and fifth, respectively. Aric Almirola finished sixth and Playoff driver Austin Dillon came home 11th after starting from the rear of the field because of unapproved adjustments to the body of his car.

"Brad clearly found a horseshoe," said Truex, the defending series champion. "Three races in a row he's won, and he has not had the best car.

"Obviously, he hasn't led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short run speed. I think, clearly, it's pretty obvious how it worked out. He's hot right now. He's on a streak. That's the way it goes."

RACE RESULTS

Finish Start # Driver Sponsor/Make Laps Led Points Status
1 13 2 Brad Keselowski (P) Autotrader Ford 272 75 50 Running
2 11 42 Kyle Larson (P) DC Solar Vegas Strong Chevrolet 272 24 36 Running
3 10 78 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 5-hour ENERGY Toyota 272 96 52 Running
4 2 22 Joey Logano (P) Pennzoil Ford 272 46 42 Running
5 6 12 Ryan Blaney (P) PPG Ford 272 0 35 Running
6 16 10 Aric Almirola (P) Smithfield Ford 272 0 33 Running
7 4 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M's Toyota 272 1 35 Running
8 19 19 Daniel Suarez ARRIS Toyota 272 0 29 Running
9 22 31 Ryan Newman Liberty National Chevrolet 272 0 29 Running
10 20 21 Paul Menard Menards/Aquafina Ford 272 0 27 Running
11 18 3 Austin Dillon (P) DOWFROST Chevrolet 272 0 26 Running
12 25 95 Regan Smith Procore Chevrolet 272 10 25 Running
13 23 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Rehydrate Ford 272 0 24 Running
14 29 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickList Chevrolet 272 0 23 Running
15 28 37 Chris Buescher Natural Light Race Day Resume Chevrolet 272 0 22 Running
16 32 72 Corey LaJoie Dragonchain Chevrolet 272 0 21 Running
17 36 23 JJ Yeley Steakhouse Elite Toyota 272 0 0 Running
18 37 0 Landon Cassill StarCom Fiber Chevrolet 272 0 0 Running
19 9 88 Alex Bowman (P) Valvoline Chevrolet 271 0 28 Running
20 34 15 Ross Chastain Xchange of America Chevrolet 271 0 0 Running
21 8 41 Kurt Busch (P) Haas Automation Ford 271 0 32 Running
22 17 48 Jimmie Johnson (P) Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet 270 0 22 Running
23 15 14 Clint Bowyer (P) One Cure Ford 270 0 14 Running
24 26 32 Matt DiBenedetto Zynga Poker Ford 269 0 13 Dvp
25 35 96 Jeffrey Earnhardt American Soldier Network Toyota 269 0 12 Running
26 33 99 Kyle Weatherman StarCom Fiber Chevrolet 269 0 11 Running
27 27 38 David Ragan MDS Transport Ford 268 0 10 Running
28 38 51 BJ McLeod Jacob Companies Ford 268 0 0 Running
29 24 34 Michael McDowell Speedco/Rotella Ford 265 0 8 Accident
30 14 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. SunnyD Ford 251 0 7 Accident
31 40 7 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 246 0 6 Running
32 3 11 Denny Hamlin (P)FedEx Ground Toyota 245 1 5 Accident
33 39 66 Timmy HillRewards.com Toyota 231 0 0 Running
34 30 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Chevrolet 218 0 3 Accident
35 12 1 Jamie McMurray GEARWRENCH Chevrolet 211 5 8 Accident
36 7 9 Chase Elliott (P)NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 211 0 11 Accident
37 21 24 William Byron #AXALTA Chevrolet 210 0 1 Accident
38 31 43 Bubba Wallace #World Wide Technology Chevrolet 164 0 1 Front Hub
39 5 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Mobil 1 Ford 147 14 10 Accident
40 1 20 Erik Jones (P) DeWalt Toyota 147 0 4 Accident


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