By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
Brad Keselowski was in the right place, at the right time, but a race-ending caution prevented him for making a charge for the win in overtime in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
In the second attempt at NASCAR Cup Series overtime at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, Keselowski lined up seventh. He picked up a spot before crossing the line as Ty Gibbs ran out of fuel. From the point on, he hooked up with Chris Buescher and adopted a ‘take no prisoners’ mentality moving forward.
Keselowski pushed his RFK Racing teammate Chris Buescher forward as Bubba Wallace took the lead on the final lap from Kyle Busch with the aid of Ryan Blaney. An ill-timed block and bump send the No. 23 spinning down into Keselowski’s No. 6 Castrol Edge Ford Mustang. The owner-driver somehow maintained control as the field crashed behind him.
The wreck force NASCAR Cup Series officials to throw the caution. With the field frozen, the 2012 Cup Series champion was unable to use the momentum he and Buescher had to make a charge for the win. Instead, Buescher took the checkered flag in third and Keselowski fifth after NASCAR’s review of the running order at the time of caution.
“We were in position that we wanted to be in to win the race and didn’t get to run it out,” Keselowski explained. “(I) fought all day to get any kind of track position. Every time there was a pit stop, something would happen that we couldn’t cycle up to the front. Finally, right then we cycle up to seventh and started ‘kicking ass, taking names,’ to get to the lead, and we don’t get to finish the green, white, checkered.
“Bummer. I was primed to take the lead coming down the frontstretch to win this thing and didn’t get to see it out. The whole race was about saving fuel. The bottom lane would just check up, save gas. As soon as the top lane would come, they would go again. It was just a constant seesaw.”
Due to the nature of the NASCAR Gen 7 (Next Gen) car, much of the race throughout the 500-mile scheduled race was side-by-side. Without a third, or even fourth lane, passing was at a premium, meaning track position was king.
Repeated issues on pit road for Keselowski and for Buescher meant that the Rochester Hills, MI driver was unable to maintain that key position. Instead he ‘seesawed’ back and forth throughout the 38-car field.
“I’ve seen all sides of Talladega, where track position means everything, I’ve seen it where it means nothing, cycling up and down,” Keselowski admitted. “Today it was just a track position race. The cars just drive so good right now, and with them driving so good, you can make a lot of really bold moves.”
The fifth-place finish is Keselowski’s second top-five this season and just his third as a co-owner of RFK Racing. It’s the 141st top-five finish in his Cup Series career.
The top-five finish moved Keselowski up from 12th to 11th in the Cup Series points standings, 62 being leader Christopher Bell. He is also 27-points ahead of the playoff cutline, currently held by Buescher.
Next for Keselowski is the Wurth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway. He has one victory at the 1-mile concrete track in 2012. He also has five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 24 starts.
The Wurth 400 is scheduled for Sunday, April 30 at 2:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.