In the final laps of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta, it appeared a Ford would be in victory lane. When the checkered flag fell, a Ford had indeed won, but not the driver who led the most laps.
Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski took the lead with seven laps to go passing Kyle Larson and crossing the line .564 seconds to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Larson was second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott in the top five.
“You never know. That’s how these races are. We had a lot of adversity today there’s no doubt about that. These races aren’t easy. They’re 500 miles and a lot can happen,” Keselowski said. “We were able to get by Kyle (Larson) there at the end. I knew that he wasn’t going to be easy to pass. His car was great and I was able to make the right moves to get by him.”
As it has for the last four Atlanta races, it was Kevin Harvick’s race to lose. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 293 of the 325 laps and won both of the first two stages. But a speeding penalty on the final pit stop sent him to the back of the field and left him with no time to make up ground, he finished ninth.
“This place, for whatever reason, I just feel like I’m snake bitten,” Harvick said. “It’s my own doing today. I really didn’t think I was even close on pit lane… I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don’t need to make and beat yourself and then you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach. That part is hard for me to follow.”
Keselowski had his own issues losing a lap with an off sequence pit strategy stop on lap 118. Then on lap 262, Keselowski beat Harvick off pit road. For the first time all afternoon it looked as though Harvick would have to restart on the outside, the least preferred line all weekend. That drama ended however when Keselowski’s crew reported possible missing lugnuts. He returned to pit road and restarted thirteenth.
He was back in the top five by lap 285 and went on to score the twenty-second win of his career and his first at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Keselowski’s Penske teammate Joey Logano also rallied back from two laps down to finish sixth, Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch was seventh, Martin Truex Jr. eighth, with Jamie McMurray rounding out the top 10 behind Harvick.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas next Sunday for the Kobalt 400. Live coverage will be on Fox starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.