Joy for Keselowski, heartbreak for Larson at Darlington

Get out the broom. Brad Keselowski completed one of the hardest sweeps in NASCAR winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway Sunday. The win came a day after he won the Xfinity race at the track “Too tough to tame.”

Like his Xfinity win Keselowski wasn’t the dominate driver instead taking the lead late and racing to his first Cup win of 2018 and his first in 29 races dating back to Talladega last fall.

The winning move for Keselowski came on the race’s final pit stops after a spin from Jeffrey Earnhardt on lap 343. Keselowski’s crew was able to get him out first and from there Keselowski was able to cruise to victory.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my pit crew,” Keselowski said.  “We were running second and that last stop they nailed it and got us out in the lead.  I thought Kyle was really good, and he was flat-out flying. “

As it has been on several occasions the dominate driver on the night was Kyle Larson.  Larson led a race high 284 laps and was the car Keselowski beat out of the pits.  Larson would fade in the closing laps allowing Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano to get by for second and giving Team Penske a 1-2 finish.

“I just keep going back to two restarts to the end,” Logano said.  “I didn’t have the best of restarts and if I got to second our pit stop was good enough to get us to the lead and give us control and that’s what ultimately won Brad the race was his pit crew that got him out in the lead.  Once he was out in the lead, he was gonna be hard to catch.

Larson held on for third; Kevin Harvick fourth and Chase Elliott fifth.

“Really happy with the car that we brought to the racetrack this weekend,” Larson said.  “I felt like from the first run on the track on Friday, I knew we were going to have a pretty good weekend.  Didn’t know it was going to be that good.  But happy about it.  Just wish we could have got the win. “

Sunday’s race marked the ninth time Larson has led over 100 laps and not won. Larson also won the two stages.

“This is my fifth Cup season, and I’ve run second or third a lot,” Larson said.  “I guess you get used to the disappointment or whatever you want to call it.  I can handle it, I guess, better than most people.  But yeah, I mean, I’ve said it a few times, but obviously would like to have got the win today, but I’m just really proud of our race shop and our team for building a car like we had this weekend.  Like I said, it’s a good time of year to show some speed.”

Kurt Busch was sixth brother Kyle seventh with Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, and polesitter Denny Hamlin rounding out the top 10.

Among those disappointed were the Hendrick cars of Jimmie Johnson and William Byron both retired early with engine issues. It was Johnson’s fourth DNF of 2018.

The win was the 25th of Keselowski’s Cup career.

“I know how it goes. In 2015 we led a bunch of laps and lost it on the last pit stop and today my team won it on the last pit stop,” Keselowski said.  “Then it was just about me hitting all my marks and not screwing it up.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday for the final race of the regular season. NBCSBN will have live coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.

About Greg Engle 7420 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.