Brad Keselowski overcomes speeding penalty to win Xfinity race at Phoenix

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 10: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series DC Solar 200 at ISM Raceway on March 10, 2018 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

AVONDALE, Ariz. –  Neither a speeding penalty nor uncharacteristic rain in the Sonoran Desert could keep Brad Keselowski out of Victory Lane on Saturday at ISM Raceway.

In winning the DC Solar 200 in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start of the season, Keselowski picked up his second victory at the one-mile track and the 37th of his career, fifth most all-time.

The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford beat Justin Allgaier to the finish line by .530 second in a battle that saw Keselowski, Allgaier, third-place Kyle Busch and fourth-place Christopher Bell all take turns with the upper hand.

“It was a solid team effort,” said Keselowski, who led 66 laps, second only to Allgaier’s 76. “I wasn’t perfect today by any stretch of the imagination, but the car was really strong.

“Really, really good for about 50-60 laps. The last 20 laps it would fall off pretty good but the guys made it count. I am really proud of them.”

The end of the first 45-lap stage, won by Allgaier, brought a red flag for rain lasting 1 hour, 34 minutes, 57 seconds. When racing resumed under caution, Keselowski drew a penalty for speeding on pit road and restarted on Lap 53 at the back of the field.

That paved the way for Busch to win Stage 2—which ended in a one-lap shootout after a rain delay of 25 minutes, 21 seconds—as Keselowski worked his way back to the third position. The final stage ran caution-free for 104 laps, with plenty of ebb and flow between the contending drivers.

Staggered pit strategies put Allgaier in the lead for the final restart on Lap 97, but Keselowski overtook him on Lap 143. With an excellent long-run car, Bell fought his way into the lead on Lap 164, passing Keselowski in a side-by-side drag race to the stripe.

But Keselowski regained the top spot on Lap 179 near the end of a long cycle of green flag pit stops and stayed comfortably ahead of Allgaier the rest of the way.

“It was disheartening to take the lead and fall back after the pit stop,” said Bell, whose car couldn’t keep up with those of his rivals on fresh tires. “I struggled on the short run getting up to speed, and those guys drove away from me.”

Allgaier found a silver lining in his second-place finish.

“I learned something from Brad running behind him,” said Allgaier, who chipped away at Keselowski’s lead before time ran out. “I was able to run him back down from what I learned.”

Allgaier also gained ground on JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Tyler Reddick, who entered the race tied for the series lead. Sadler and Reddick started the event from the back of the field, Sadler because of an engine change and Reddick in a backup car after damaging his primary No. 9 Chevrolet during the first round of qualifying on Saturday.

Sadler, who ran ninth as the first driver one lap down, retained the series lead by one point over Reddick, who finished 10th. Allgaier is third in the standings, seven points back, and Bell trails the leader by eight points in fourth.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Results DC Solar 200

ISM Raceway

Avondale, Arizona

Saturday, March 10, 2018

1. (2) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 200.

2. (1) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.

3. (5) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 200.

4. (4) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 200.

5. (6) Jamie McMurray(i), Chevrolet, 200.

6. (8) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 200.

7. (9) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 200.

8. (3) Cole Custer, Ford, 200.

9. (24) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 199.

10. (40) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 199.

11. (10) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 199.

12. (17) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 199.

13. (14) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 199.

14. (12) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 199.

15. (7) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 199.

16. (13) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 199.

17. (15) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 199.

18. (11) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199.

19. (18) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.

20. (21) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198.

21. (16) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 198.

22. (22) Alex Labbe #, Chevrolet, 198.

23. (20) Dylan Lupton, Ford, 198.

24. (19) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 197.

25. (23) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 197.

26. (26) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 196.

27. (27) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 195.

28. (31) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 195.

29. (28) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 194.

30. (34) Spencer Boyd #, Chevrolet, 194.

31. (32) Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 193.

32. (39) Josh Bilicki #, Toyota, 193.

33. (33) Vinnie Miller #, Chevrolet, 192.

34. (38) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 190.

35. (37) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 185.

36. (36) Chad Finchum #, Toyota, Engine, 104.

37. (29) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 56.

38. (35) Matt Mills #, Chevrolet, Accident, 54.

39. (30) David Starr, Chevrolet, Engine, 24.

40. (25) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Brakes, 18.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  103.019 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 56 Mins, 29 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.530 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 24 laps.

Lead Changes:  10 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Allgaier 1-10; B. Keselowski(i) 11-33; J. Allgaier 34-49; T. Reddick # 50-53; K. Busch(i) 54-92; J. Allgaier 93-142; B. Keselowski(i) 143-163; C. Bell # 164-168; T. Reddick # 169-170; K. Grala # 171-178; B. Keselowski(i) 179-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Allgaier 3 times for 76 laps; B. Keselowski(i) 3 times for 66 laps; K. Busch(i) 1 time for 39 laps; K. Grala # 1 time for 8 laps; T. Reddick # 2 times for 6 laps; C. Bell # 1 time for 5 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 7,20,22,18,21,42,2,19,3,11

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,21,00,42,11,23,7,24,38,20

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.