Keselowski takes checkers in Nationwide race
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Brad Keselowski thought he was in for a long night when a tire went down and he scraped the wall on lap 55 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It was a night of adversity to start and we all got really nervous,” Keselowski said.
But once Keselowski settled down, the No. 22 Ford battled back to the front, passing teammate Ryan Blaney with 12 laps to go to win the Nationwide Series race Friday night.
Keselowski passed Blaney on the outside on the straightaway to earn his fourth victory in nine starts this year and 31st Nationwide Series win of his career. That ties him with Jack Ingram for fifth on the all-time list.
“Winning a Nationwide race, to me the novelty of being in victory lane hasn’t worn off — at least to me,” Keselowski said. “… I don’t take these wins for granted or take these opportunities for granted.”
Kyle Busch, who was won a record 69 races in the Nationwide Series, finished second. Matt Kenseth was third, Blaney finished fourth, and Kyle Larson, who won here at Charlotte earlier this year, was fifth.
Chase Elliott finished ninth, extending his points lead over Regan Smith to 42. Smith finished in 11th place.
Elliott started from the pole and led a portion of the race but ultimately left the track frustrated with his performance.
“My restarts are some of the worst you can have,” Elliott said. “I think I would know how to restart a race at this point. That is 100 percent pitiful, in all honesty.”
Ty Dillon, who entered the night third in the standings, was involved in a six-car crash on lap 76, ending his night. He finished in 30th place and fell back to fifth place, 62 points behind Elliott.
“I made a bit of a mistake going four wide,” Dillon said.
The race included eight cautions, several the result of blown tires.
“I felt like we were playing prevent defense early in the race,” said Keselowski. “Everyone was waiting for who was the next person who was going to blow a tire. You didn’t want to run slow and fall back in traffic where you couldn’t make passes. But you could see everyone that ran hard kept having tire problems.”
Keselowski’s crew chief Jeremy Bullins said: “I’m sure it will be on everybody’s mind until they get through the first green flag run.”
Busch said that’s something Sprint Cup drivers may need to be wary of on Saturday night.
“I think Cup cars tend to be harder on tires than Nationwide cars do because they’re faster down the straightaway, they land harder in the corners and whatnot,” Busch said. “We had issues tonight.”
It was a crash-filled night at Charlotte right from the start.
The 200-lap, 300-mile race got off to a less-than-auspicious start with a crash on the first lap that damaged 11 cars and sent seven behind the wall, including those driven by Jeffrey Earnhardt, JJ Yeley, Matt DiBenedetto, Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Jamie Dick and Will Kimmel.
By the midway point of the race, only 16 of the 40 cars were on the lead lap and 13 were out of the race.