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Keselowski Capitalizes On Harvick Mistake At AMS

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 5 2017

Brad Keselowski took advantage of a Kevin Harvick mistake to win Sunday in Atlanta. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Kevin Harvick’s to lose as he headed into the pits with 15 laps to go. And that’s exactly what happened as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was slapped with a speeding penalty that cost him the win.

Loving it all was Brad Keselowski, who took the lead from Kyle Larson with seven laps to go and from there went on to get the win in the second race of the 2017 season.

“These races aren’t easy,” Keslowski said. “They’re 500 miles and a lot can happen and when you think you’ve got it they slip away. I know how it goes. This one kind of fell in our lap at the end and my team put it all together when it counted.”

The victory busted a 19-race winless slump for the Team Penske driver and it came even though a lug nut snafu caused him to re-pit early in the final of three stages.

“We had our own issues with a tire and a loose wheel. We just fought through it all day,” Keselowski said.

“Everybody stayed focused and nobody had to say anything. We know the deal. We know that this isn’t going to be easy. you have to keep your head down and keep fighting at all
times and that’s what we did.”

Larson finished second while Matt Kenseth was third.

Harvick dominated the first segment, leading all but three laps. His lead late in the stage was nearly five seconds over second-place Keselowski.

It was more of the same only more so in the second stage as Harvick was never seriously challenged. His lead at the end of the stage was over five seconds.

He was in the lead when he pitted for the final time in the race but the penalty was called and that was the end of hope for the former champion.

“We did everything we thought we needed to do,” Harvick, who finished ninth in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “I knew I need to be close to pit road speed because we were having trouble getting out of the (pit) box. But I didn’t think I was pushing it that close but it gets to bouncing in there and you can’t really tell where you’re at.

“I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don’t need to make and beat yourself and then you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach. That part is hard for me to swallow. The good part about it is our Ford has been really fast. We didn’t know what we were going to have when we got here and we had a great weekend the whole time. Man, I just, one way or another I have figured out how to lose races here at Atlanta after being so dominant. We will pick ‘em up and start again next week.”

Through the first two stages, Keselowski had led every laps but three. On restarts, he would quickly move to big leads.

Keselowski said, “Kevin was very, very strong and probably the guy to beat but we persevered.”

Larson, driving the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing car, had the lead coming out of the final restart. He also had the preferred bottom line.

But with seven to go, he went high and Keselowski dove underneath and took the lead.

“I raced around Brad (Keselowski, race winner) a lot throughout the day,” Larson said. “Any time I was in front of him on short runs, he’s drive around me up top. And so, I knew I was going to have to take his line away on that start there for a couple of laps and try it. I just didn’t have enough grip or not as much as I’d hoped. He did a good job being a lane lower than me and getting to my inside.

“So, it was disappointing not to get the win, but I’m happy about our second place run at a 1.5-mile where I struggle at. I can’t thank everybody at the shop enough for building great race cars, and Hendrick engines for supplying us with some great engines, I had a blast today. The Target Chevy was good. I ran the bottom a lot, which is not typically something I do. So, it was a lot of fun to learn how to kind of use both feet to get around the bottom and to do a good job with that.”

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Hampton, Georgia

Sunday, March 05, 2017

  1. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 325.
  2. (8) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325.
  3. (16) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 325.
  4. (29) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 325.
  5. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 325.
  6. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 325.
  7. (13) Kurt Busch, Ford, 325.
  8. (9) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 325.
  9. (1) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325.
  10. (7) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 325.
  11. (25) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 325.
  12. (15) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 325.
  13. (4) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 325.
  14. (23) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 325.
  15. (26) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 325.
  16. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325.
  17. (24) Danica Patrick, Ford, 325.
  18. (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 324.
  19. (18) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 324.
  20. (37) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 324.
  21. (21) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 323.
  22. (27) Landon Cassill, Ford, 323.
  23. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 323.
  24. (28) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 323.
  25. (17) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 322.
  26. (20) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 322.
  27. (30) Aric Almirola, Ford, 321.
  28. (22) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 321.
  29. (36) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 320.
  30. (12) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 320.
  31. (33) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 320.
  32. (19) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 319.
  33. (35) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 317.
  34. (32) * Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 313.
  35. (2) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 309.
  36. (38) * Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 298.
  37. (31) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, Engine, 253.
  38. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Rear End, 182.
  39. (39) * Cody Ware, Chevrolet, Steering, 74.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  140.898 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 33 Mins, 08 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.564 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 32 laps.

Lead Changes:  9 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Harvick 1-36; R. Newman 37-39; K. Harvick 40-127; J. Johnson 128-129; B. Keselowski 130-141; K. Harvick 142-264; B. Keselowski 265-266; K. Harvick 267-311; K. Larson 312-318; B. Keselowski 319-325.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Harvick 4 times for 292 laps; B. Keselowski 3 times for 21 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 7 laps; R. Newman 1 time for 3 laps; J. Johnson 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,2,24,78,22,31,17,11,42,48

Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,24,31,78,42,3,2,77,14,6

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 5 2017
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