Controlling the race on a succession of restarts from the inside lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski pulled away in overtime to win Saturday’s Alsco 300, the 11th NASCAR Xfinity Series event of the season.
After a debris caution on Lap 199 of a scheduled slowed the action for the 12th time, Keselowski led the field to the restart on Lap 203 and, with a strong push from runner-up and fellow Ford driver Cole Custer, broke away to a lead of six car lengths.
Keselowski took the checkered flag under caution when Tyler Reddick spun his no. 9 Chevrolet off Turn 2 for the second time and collected the Ford of Ty Majeski in the process.
Keselowski has won in each of his last three Xfinity Series starts dating to last year’s fall race at Richmond, and he’s the first repeat winner of 2018. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford won for the fourth time at Charlotte and for the 38th time in his career.
The race was delayed for more than an hour by a pop-up rainstorm that drenched the track after a wreck involving Dylan Lupton and Majeski caused the 10th caution on Lap 167. The rain provided a brief respite on a day that was unusually hot and humid.
“So far, it’s been a great week,” said Keselowski, whose team owner, Roger Penske, was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday. “I couldn’t ask for a much better start for Memorial Day weekend than to bring home a win…
“I think it was definitely a perseverance day. It was brutally hot out there. The humidity was just killer. I usually don’t get that hot in a race car, but it was smokin’ out there. It’s just part of the challenge of racing on days like this, and glad to bring it home first, that’s for sure.”
Christopher Bell lined up next to Keselowski for the final restart, but Bell failed to launch in the tri-oval, and Custer surged into the runner-up position. Bell held third, Ty Dillon came home fourth, and series leader Elliott Sadler capped an adventurous day with an unlikely top five, given that problems with the handling of his No. 1 Chevrolet had dropped him outside the top 20 during an earlier run.
Sadler also had issues with his air-conditioning unit, which started blowing hot air, compounding the effects of the heat.
Bell had been closing fast on Keselowski late in the race before the 12th caution.
“I was just heartbroken when I saw that piece of debris fly off those lapped cars,” Bell said. “I felt like we were starting to make some runs there. I was getting the top going pretty good in (Turns) 1 and 2. I felt like I was going to have a shot at him if the yellow didn’t come out.
“Obviously, when the yellow came out, I did have a shot at him, and I just didn’t execute on that last restart… I think me and Cole had the winning strategy (pitting later than Keselowski for new tires). We just didn’t get it done. The old Cup guy beat us.”
For the record, Keselowski turned 34 in February.
Kyle Busch led 93 laps and won the first two stages of the race, but after pitting for fresh tires under caution on Lap 158 and restarting eighth on Lap 162, Busch ran out of room trying to pass Lupton to the inside approaching Turn 1 and slammed into the inside SAFER barrier.
Busch recovered to finish eighth.
Notes: Keselowski was racing without the services of spotter Joey Meier who was attending his son’s graduation from Navy basic training. Jefferson Hodges, director of competition at Rev Racing, filled in for Meier, who won’t be available to spot for Keselowski in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600… Ryan Truex, Daniel Hemric, Busch, Matt Tifft and Kaz Grala competed for the top 10. It was the first Xfinity event for Grala’s No. 61 Fury Race cars team… Sadler retained the series lead by 38 points over Bell in second.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!