Brad Keselowski did what had appeared to be impossible for 300-plus laps of Sunday night’s Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway — keep a dominating Kyle Larson out of victory lane.
Keselowski won a drag race with Larson and teammate Joey Logano out of the pits during a caution with 22 laps to go, then pulled away to win the 367-lap Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in Darlington, S.C.
“Got to give a lot of credit to my pit crew,” Keselowski told the NBC Sports cameras following the race. “We were running second and that last stop they nailed it. I thought Kyle Larson was good, he was flat out flying but I know how it goes.”
The victory was the Team Penske driver’s first of the Cup season and first at Darlington in the series — he won his first race at the track at any level Saturday during the Xfinity Series race.
Finishing second was Logano, who edged past Larson with 16 laps to go and then finished 1.224 seconds back.
For Chip Ganassi Racing’s Larson, who finished third after leading 284 laps, the finish extended his season of disappointment. He has five runner-up finishes — including two weeks ago at Bristol — but has yet to win.
Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, winner of last year’s race at the 1.366-mile Darlington oval, started from the pole and led the first 11 laps before Larson took over.
Larson would lead the next 118 laps and collected the Stage 1 victory in the process. Larson would lose the lead to Martin Truex Jr. during yellow flag stops after a wreck on Lap 128, but reclaim the lead 30 laps later and win Stage 2.
In the third and final stage, teams began to alter pit strategies with some opting to make three green-flag stops over the final 167 laps. That cost the lead or Larson, who was on a two-stop schedule — but not for long. With 89 laps to go, he passed Logano and led once again.
But a series of late-race cautions set the stage for Keselowski’s victory.
Next up on the schedule is the final race before the start of the 10-race Cup playoffs — the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday.
—Field Level Media