Keselowski snags runner-up finish on final restart

No, Brad Keselowski didn’t win the Go bowling.com 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Keselowski snags runner-up finish on final restart

But after the setbacks the No. 2 Team Penske Ford faced on Saturday night, second-place was nearly as sweet.

“We were really good all day and just never had a chance to show it,” Keselowski said. “Every time we started to pass cars and cycle up to the front, we had some kind of issue, which was a real bummer to not be able to showcase the strength that we had.”

Keselowski finished fifth in the first stage. However, when the leaders pitted under the 11th caution, the No. 2 Team Penske pit crew failed to tighten all the lug nuts on his left rear wheel. He was forced to pit from the top 10 on Lap 120 and dropped to 34th in the field, one lap down.

However, NASCAR officials reported that Keselowski drove through three pit boxes while receiving service on pit road. They issued a pass-thru penalty on the No 2 Ford. Five laps later, Keselowski served his penance. But it knocked him back to 36th in the field, two laps off of the lead circuit.

Rebounding from mid-race issues

The driver was feeling critical of himself when the next caution came out knowing he would have been eligible for the lucky dog. His spotter Joey Meier reminded him, “We’re not dead yet, still 128 laps to go.”

The pep talk helped fire up the driver — who was without his crew chief Paul Wolfe for the second race in a row. Wolfe is serving the last race of a three-race suspension after failing post-race inspection on March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway. Brian Wilson was calling the shots this weekend.

With pit strategy, perseverance — and attrition — Keselowski raced through the field. By Lap 198, he was running 22nd. By the 12th caution on Lap 215, Keselwoski moved into the top 15. Fifteen laps later, the No. 2 was battling among the top 10.

Although race winner Martin Truex Jr., was unstoppable in the closing laps, the final three cautions allowed put Keselowski in contention for a solid finish.

“Towards the end we were able to get some runs and make the most of it, and I think we went from probably 20th with 100 to go to second, which was a pretty big climb in the sport,” Keselowski said. “That’s something to be proud of, but I kind of feel like I would have liked to have seen if it would have just played out normal, and I think we might have had a shot at him.”

Despite his comeback, Keselowski remains third in the standings, 67 points behind leader Kyle Larson. He trails second-place Truex by 23 points.

“We finished second here two or three weeks, and last week we finished seventh and lost points all three weeks because of the stages,” Keselowski said. “You have to run up front. You have to get through the early and middle part of the race without having issues or you lose points, so that’s one of the beauties of this format is you can’t just kind of buzzard‑pick at the end.

“So we still lost points today, which is a bummer, considering that we finished second, and I think fifth or sixth in one of those stages. But that just shows how tough the competition is and how important the stages are.”

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Truex victorious after wild Kansas Cup race

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