EditorsNote: Quotes added, changes to writethru
Brad Keselowski, a non-factor for much of Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway, took his first lead with seven laps to go, survived a restart in overtime and went on to get his third victory of the season.
The win came with the new — and controversial — rules package for cars in place.
“This was an awesome race today,” Keselowski said. “This rule package was really meant for tracks like Kansas Speedway, and I think the fans saw a great one today.”
The Team Penske Ford driver — who has won at Atlanta and Martinsville in 2019 — had to hold off the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Alex Bowman. Bowman finished second, giving him three straight runner-up finishes.
“Alex Bowman, I’m telling you, he’s going to win a race,” Keselowski said. “He did a great job today. We had a little bit fresher tires than he did and were able to make the move on the outside there and just caught everything perfect, and I’m so thankful.”
Bowman took his third straight first-loser result with a shake of the head.
“Wish we were sitting here with three wins in a row,” he said. “Things could have gone differently and that could have been the case, but we’ll keep digging next week.”
It was Keselowski’s 30th career win and second at Kansas. He dedicated it to long-time Missouri NASCAR team owner and pioneer, Mike Mittler.
“He helped a lot of guys in their career, and I was one of them,” Keselowski said of Mittler. “He passed away yesterday ... such a huge loss for the NASCAR community. He was one of those unsung heroes.”
Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing finished third while Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports was fourth and Kansas native Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing was fifth.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick started from the pole and, for much of the first two stages, appeared to have the field covered. He won the first stage and looked strong enough to win the second.
But late in the second stage, Elliott challenged Harvick. With 15 laps to go in the stage, Elliott became the first driver to pass Harvick on the track for the lead.
With 88 laps to go, Harvick, who led a race-best 105 laps, slowed and headed into the pits reporting a tire problem. That opened the door for Bowman to move into the lead.
Bowman was well out front when a caution flag waved with 50 laps to go and final pit stops underway.
On the restart with 39 laps to go, Elliott jumped back to the lead on his teammate. With 28 laps to go, the caution flag waved for the seventh time. Bowman quickly moved to the front after the restart but was tracked down by Keselowski.
Keselowski used a great restart to claim the lead in overtime and went on to get the win.
“What a great day. That restart, we just got a great launch,” the Michigan native said.
Kyle Busch’s bid to become the first driver in history to notch top-10 finishes in the first 12 races of the season came to an end at Kansas. He finished three laps off the pace in 30th place.
—Field Level Media