Brad Keselowski did his best Babe Ruth impression Saturday night. Thursday the Team Penske driver told the media that he expected to “lead a lot of laps” and “bring home our fourth win of the year” at Richmond Raceway.
And that’s exactly what he did.
Keselowski led a race high 192 of the 400 laps, won Stage 2 and took the lead for the final time after the last round of green flag stops with less than 50 laps to go. He would go on to beat Martin Truex Jr. to the line by a comfortable 1.5 seconds.
“It was a great race for us and the 2 team,” Keselowski said. “This is, I think my car from Loudon, and I wanted to do a really cool burnout with it, but I want this car for Phoenix. It’s 2-for-2 and I’m real pumped. 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 second-place finish for Truex was his third runner-up in the last five races.
“We’re strong,” Truex said. “I feel like we’re executing well and we’re not making mistakes like we did early in the season, aside from last weekend obviously on the racetrack, but that was me, not the team. Just solid every week. Fast race cars and everybody is making good decisions. Hopefully, we can keep putting ourselves in the front and we’ll win some races eventually.”
Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano, who led 45 laps, was third.
Austin Dillon backed up his second place run at Darlington a week prior with a strong performance Saturday night finishing fourth. The finish came after Dillon led the second most laps on the night, 55, and overcame two pit road issues; a speeding penalty and later missing the entrance prior to a green flag stop losing several spots as he was forced to come around and pit again.
“To come from the back [after the speeding penalty] and finish second in Stage 2 was just so awesome,” said Dillon. “This race team is on fire right now and showing up when it matters.”
Chase Elliott also rebounded from a poor finish at Darlington to finish a quiet fifth. Kyle Busch whose car field pre-race inspection twice rallied from starting last to finish sixth followed by Richmond polesitter and Darlington winner Kevin Harvick. Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10.
Richmond is the NASCAR Cup Series’ second race in the Round of 16. Keselowski and Harvick are the only two Playoff who have won their way into the Round of 12 so far.
Denny Hamlin, who won stage 1 and led a total of 45 laps, struggled in the latter half of the race and came home 12th. Despite the finish, Hamlin clinched a spot in the next round on points.
“Well, we lost some track position,” Hamlin said. “It just seemed like once the track rubbered up, we just weren’t any good. We couldn’t get off the corner good, couldn’t get in the corner. Just nothing was really very good with it.”
“We will move on to the next round and go have some fun next week and see how we do.”
There were no caution flags beyond a competition caution on lap 30 and the two stage breaks. Like the two Xfinity races and the Truck race run at Richmond this week, the final stage, 115 laps, was run caution free.
“We were expecting there to be long green flag runs,” Keselowski said. “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.”
The four remaining Playoff drivers behind Hamlin, will face elimination in the next race. Cole Custer finished 14th, Matt DiBenedetto 17th, Ryan Blaney 18th and William Byron 21st. Byron, Custer, DiBenedetto and Blaney are all below the cutline as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday to close out the Round of 16 with an elimination race.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Federated Auto Parts 400
Saturday, September 12, 2020
1. (9) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 400.
2. (14) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 400.
3. (2) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 400.
4. (3) Austin Dillon (P), Chevrolet, 400.
5. (12) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 400.
6. (6) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 400.
7. (1) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 400.
8. (10) Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 400.
9. (4) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 400.
10. (11) Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 400.
11. (22) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 400.
12. (7) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 399.
13. (8) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 399.
14. (13) Cole Custer # (P), Ford, 399.
15. (26) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 399.
16. (19) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 399.
17. (16) Matt DiBenedetto (P), Ford, 399.
18. (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 398.
19. (15) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 398.
20. (24) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 398.
21. (5) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 398.
22. (17) Erik Jones, Toyota, 398.
23. (21) Ryan Newman, Ford, 397.
24. (25) Chris Buescher, Ford, 397.
25. (20) Michael McDowell, Ford, 397.
26. (30) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 397.
27. (34) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 396.
28. (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 396.
29. (28) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 396.
30. (31) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 396.
31. (18) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 395.
32. (33) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 390.
33. (29) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 390.
34. (32) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 388.
35. (36) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 387.
36. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 387.
37. (38) James Davison, Chevrolet, 385.
38. (37) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Rear Hub, 100.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 101.868 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 56 Mins, 42 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.568 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: 19 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Harvick (P) 1-20;A. Dillon (P) 21-33;B. Poole # 34;A. Dillon (P) 35-38;D. Hamlin (P) 39-83;A. Dillon (P) 84;J. Logano (P) 85-120;B. Keselowski (P) 121-162;K. Harvick (P) 163-181;A. Dillon (P) 182-217;B. Keselowski (P) 218-293;C. Elliott (P) 294-295;K. Busch (P) 296-307;J. Logano (P) 308-316;B. Keselowski (P) 317-342;K. Busch (P) 343-346;K. Harvick (P) 347-348;K. Busch (P) 349-351;A. Dillon (P) 352;B. Keselowski (P) 353-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Brad Keselowski (P) 4 times for 192 laps; Austin Dillon (P) 5 times for 55 laps; Joey Logano (P) 2 times for 45 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 45 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 41 laps; Kurt Busch (P) 2 times for 15 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 1 time for 4 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Brennan Poole # 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,3,22,2,4,88,19,9,47,14
Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,3,19,22,9,18,1,10,42,4