Keselowski uses last-lap pass in OT for sixth Talladega win

Brad Keselowski needed just one lap to win his first race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season – the last one.

On the final lap of overtime, Keselowski and Matt DiBenedetto were racing for the win when DiBenedetto went to the high side to block and Keselowski went low.

With a shove from Michael McDowell, Keselowski cleared DiBenedetto and held on to the checkered flag to earn his first win of the season and sixth career victory at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, despite Erik Jones and Ross Chastain wrecking behind him.

 

It was the only lap Keselowski led in a wild race which saw 35 lead changes among 17 different drivers.

Keselowski, who has 35 career wins, is the ninth different winner in the first 10 races of the 2021 season.

“What an awesome day today. The whole race I had a couple opportunities to take the lead, but I just kept thinking, ‘Man, keep your car in one piece,’” Keselowski said. “We’ve been so close here and it just didn’t seem to want to come together here the last few years and I’ve been on kind of a four-year drought here, but it’s nice to get number six (at Talladega).

“I would have never dreamed I’d tie Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. here. That’s something. Those guys are really legends. I’m just really proud of my team. We had an accident there early and they recovered and got it fixed up to where I could keep running.

“My crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, had a lot of confidence. I told him him, ‘I want to come in and put four tires on this thing,’ and he said, ‘Yep, go ahead.’ And that really helped a bunch at the end.”

Asked about how the overtime played out so well for him, Keselowski said, “If you’re going to lead 187 and not lead the last one, that’s not so good. I think I’ll take the last one and that’s exactly how it worked out, leading the last one.

“It opened up, the lane did. Matt went to block (Blaney) and I just barely got inside of him with a huge run. I got a great push from Michael McDowell, which was really helpful and appreciated, so just a big day.”

 

William Byron ended up second, McDowell third, Kevin Harvick fourth and DiBenedetto rounded out the top-five.

Completing the top-10 were Kaz Grala, Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Cole Custer.

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Stage 3

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap cars pit with Blaney the first off pit road.

On the restart on Lap 127, Blaney was followed by Aric Almirola, Bubba Wallace, McDowell and Kyle Busch.

On Lap 132, Blaney allowed Almirola to get around him for the lead as Blaney needed to run behind a car to help remove debris from his front grille.

With 40 laps remaining in the race, Chastain with a bunch of help behind him used the lower lane to get past Almirola and take the lead. He was followed by Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and Harvick.

Harvick grabbed control of the race on Lap 151 on to see Chastain regain it on Lap 153 as teams began preparing for their final green-flag pit stops. Harvick moved back out front on Lap 154.

On Lap 155, several cars dropped to pit road for their final pit stop but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun and hit the wall before he made it to pit road. The race remained green.

The final group of cars pit on Lap 159 to take on fuel to make it to the finish of the race. With the cycle of stops completed on Lap 160, Bell led the way followed by Chastain, Kyle Busch, Reddick and Jones.

Chastain got around Bell to reclaim the lead on Lap 162.

With 20 laps remaining, Chastain remained out front followed by Kyle Busch, Jones, McDowell and Keselowski.

On Lap 170, Jones, with some help from DiBenedetto, took the lead for the first time as Wallace moved into third.

Quin Houff hit the wall in Turn 2 on Lap 172 to bring out a caution, which set aside the fuel worries many drivers had.

Many lead-lap cars elected to pit for fuel but Jones stayed on the track and remained in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 177. He was followed by DiBenedetto and Chastain.

DiBenedetto quickly powered back to the lead after the restart.

NASCAR displayed the caution on Lap 186 for a tire carcass that came off Martin Truex Jr.’s car and landed near the start/finish line.

Both Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch were forced to pit under the caution for fuel and new tires.

When the race went into overtime, DiBenedetto led the way followed by Blaney, Keselowski, Harvick and McDowell.

Stage 2

Wallace picked up the Stage 2 victory under caution as a wreck erupted behind him with one lap remaining in the 60-lap segment.

Denny Hamlin appeared to drift up in front of Truex, who then got in the back of Hamlin and turned him into the wall, which triggered another multi-car accident.

Among those collected were Byron, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott, who all were forced to drive through the infield grass.

 

Keselowski ended up second, McDowell, Kyle Busch and Blaney.

Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, most of the lead-lap cars pit but several stayed including Elliott, who led the way when the race returned to green on Lap 67.

With a shove from DiBenedetto, Hamlin moved back into the lead on the restart.

DiBenedetto got back around Hamlin to reclaim the lead on Lap 69 as Byron moved into second. Hamlin moved back out front on Lap 73.

A group of Chevrolet drivers hit pit road on Lap 84 to begin a round of green-flag pit stops.

Both Daniel Suarez and Chastain were penalized for speeding on pit road and both had to serve a pass-thru penalty under green.

A group of Ford drivers pit on Lap 92 with the Toyotas following on Lap 93.

Harvick, Hamlin and Chris Buescher were all penalized for speeding on pit road and all three had to serve pass-thru penalties under green.

Hamlin was penalized again for speeding while serving his speeding penalty and had to serve another pass-thru penalty under green.

Once the cycle of green-flag stops was completed on Lap 84, Ryan Preece led the way followed by Byron and Kurt Busch.

Byron got around Preece to take over the race lead on Lap 101 followed by Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto.

On Lap 103, NASCAR black-flagged Kurt Busch for smoke pouring from his No. 1 Chevrolet and a lap later a caution was displayed as Busch’s car leaked fluid on the track.

 

A handful of drivers elected to pit and Harvick was penalized for having a crew member over the wall too soon and had to restart from the rear of the field.

On the restart on Lap 110, Byron led the way followed by DiBenedetto, Keselowski, Preece and Bell.

Wallace worked his way back to the front of the pack on Lap 112 despite suffering some damage from the wreck at the end of Stage 1.

Stage 1

DiBenedetto took the Stage 1 win under caution when a multi-car wreck erupted on the backstretch that sent Joey Logano’s No. 22 Ford barrel-rolling down the track.

Following a series of bumping moves, Logano appeared to get turned by Hamlin. Logano’s car veered left and made slight contact with Preece, which sent Logano’s car airborne.

Wallace, Keselowski and Chase Briscoe also got caught up in the incident.

 

Logano started on the pole due to Hamlin having to start from the rear but Byron got around him off Turn 4 to take the lead on Lap 1.

Kyle Larson was forced to pit under green on Lap 2 with an overheating engine as Logano moved back into the lead.

On Lap 7, Larson returned to pit road with smoke pouring from his No. 5 Chevrolet. His team soon pushed his car to the garage.

Wallace, who started from the back, made his way around Logano to take the lead for the first time on Lap 12.

With a shove from Keselowski, Harvick moved into the lead on Lap 15. Wallace powered back to the front on Lap 19.

Kyle Busch got a shove out to the lead on Lap 22 as Bell ran second and Truex third.

On Lap 26, NASCAR displayed a competition caution to allow teams to check on tire wear. All of the lead-lap cars pit with Hamlin the first off pit road.

Burton was penalized for removing equipment (gas can), Truex was penalized for speeding on pit road and Preece was penalized from a crew member over the wall too soon so all three had to restart from the rear of the field.

When the race returned to green on Lap 31, Hamlin led the way followed by Kyle Busch, Blaney, Bell and Byron.

On Lap 39, Joey Gase spun coming off Turn 4 to bring out the first caution for an incident in the race. A handful of cars elected to pit but Hamlin remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 44.

Blaney got a shove to the front and grabbed the lead on Lap 49 for the first time in the race.

DiBenedetto got around Blaney with a shove from Hamlin to take the lead on Lap 51 as Blaney and Logano fell in behind him.

With five laps to go in the stage, Preece had made his way out front followed by Buescher and DiBenedetto.

DiBenedetto returned to the lead on Lap 57.

Hamlin, Truex, Bell, Wallace and Harrison Burton all had to start the race from the rear due to unapproved adjustments before the race.

Cla # Driver Manufacturer Laps Time Gap Interval Laps Led
1 2 United States Brad Keselowski Ford 191 3:26'30.596     1
2 24 United States William Byron Chevrolet 191 3:26'30.698 0.102 0.102 12
3 34 United States Michael McDowell Ford 191 3:26'30.699 0.103 0.001  
4 4 United States Kevin Harvick Ford 191 3:26'30.807 0.211 0.108 12
5 21 United States Matt DiBenedetto Ford 191 3:26'30.992 0.396 0.185 28
6 16 United States Kaz Grala Chevrolet 191 3:26'30.993 0.397 0.001  
7 8 United States Tyler Reddick Chevrolet 191 3:26'31.014 0.418 0.021  
8 3 United States Austin Dillon Chevrolet 191 3:26'31.137 0.541 0.123  
9 12 United States Ryan Blaney Ford 191 3:26'31.170 0.574 0.033 11
10 41 United States Cole Custer Ford 191 3:26'31.217 0.621 0.047  
11 14 United States Chase Briscoe Ford 191 3:26'31.330 0.734 0.113 1
12 38 Anthony Alfredo Ford 191 3:26'31.366 0.770 0.036  
13 6 United States Ryan Newman Ford 191 3:26'31.514 0.918 0.148 2
14 37 United States Ryan Preece Chevrolet 191 3:26'31.519 0.923 0.005 9
15 10 United States Aric Almirola Ford 191 3:26'31.523 0.927 0.004 16
16 42 United States Ross Chastain Chevrolet 191 3:26'31.608 1.012 0.085 12
17 20 United States Christopher Bell Toyota 191 3:26'31.609 1.013 0.001 2
18 18 United States Kyle Busch Toyota 191 3:26'31.629 1.033 0.020 6
19 23 United States Bubba Wallace Toyota 191 3:26'31.797 1.201 0.168 16
20 96 United States Harrison Burton Toyota 191 3:26'32.262 1.666 0.465  
21 17 United States Chris Buescher Ford 191 3:26'32.721 2.125 0.459  
22 7 United States Corey Lajoie Chevrolet 191 3:26'32.939 2.343 0.218  
23 99 Mexico Daniel Suarez Chevrolet 191 3:26'33.761 3.165 0.822  
24 9 United States Chase Elliott Chevrolet 191 3:26'33.888 3.292 0.127 3
25 78 United States B.J. McLeod Ford 191 3:26'38.726 8.130 4.838  
26 15 United States J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 191 3:26'40.615 10.019 1.889  
27 43 United States Erik Jones Chevrolet 190 3:25'41.821 1 Lap 1 Lap 7
28 51 United States Cody Ware Chevrolet 190 3:26'34.626 1 Lap 52.805  
29 66 United States Timmy Hill Toyota 190 3:26'39.823 1 Lap 5.197  
30 77 United States Justin Haley Chevrolet 190 3:26'40.995 1 Lap 1.172  
31 19 United States Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 189 3:26'43.991 2 Laps 1 Lap  
32 11 United States Denny Hamlin Toyota 188 3:26'40.579 3 Laps 1 Lap 43
33 47 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Chevrolet 186 3:26'40.770 5 Laps 2 Laps  
34 28 United States Joey Gase Ford 186 3:26'41.417 5 Laps 0.647  
35 1 United States Kurt Busch Chevrolet 185 3:26'45.003 6 Laps 1 Lap  
36 52 United States Josh Bilicki Ford 180 3:26'48.729 11 Laps 5 Laps  
37 00 United States Quin Houff Chevrolet 168 2:58'18.113 23 Laps 12 Laps  
38 48 United States Alex Bowman Chevrolet 123 2:14'45.666 68 Laps 45 Laps  
39 22 United States Joey Logano Ford 59 59'06.681 132 Laps 64 Laps 10
40 5 United States Kyle Larson Chevrolet 3 5'05.577 188 Laps 56 Laps  
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