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Keselowski, Penske Shine At Darlington

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 2 2018

Brad Keselowski takes the checkers to win Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Brad Keselowski’s Darlington drought is over. On Saturday, the Michigan native won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race and then on Sunday, he collected a win in one of NASCAR’s crown jewels as he won the Southern 500 at historic old Darlington.

Keselowski did what had appeared to be impossible for 300-plus laps of Sunday night’s race – keep a dominating Kyle Larson out of victory lane.

Keselowski got the victory when he won a drag race with Larson out of the pits during a caution with 22 laps and then pull away to win the 367-lap Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

“Got to give a lot of credit to my pit crew,” Keselowski said. “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 – but his second of the weekend at Darlington as he was Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

Finishing second was Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, who edged past Larson with 16 laps to go and then finished 1.224 seconds back.

“At the end there, all I could do was match his lap times,” Logano said of Keselowski. “I tried running up top and was no good up there. But really cool for Team Penske to get a 1-2 here at Darlington. For Brad to sweep here this weekend, that’s incredible.”

The win was the first for a Roger Penske owned car at Darlington since 1975.

For Chip Ganassi Racing’s Larson, who finished third after leading 284 laps, extended his season of disappointment as he has finished second five times in 2018 – including two weeks ago at Bristol.

“It’s always important to come out the leader off pit road,” Larson said. “I felt like if I could have been in clean air I would have been alright. Kind of all day, any time I would get in traffic I’d get loose and that last run, I was just loose.

“This car was extremely fast. We had to dominant car and we proved it.”

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. Taking the lead was Larson.

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.

Thirty laps later, Larson reclaimed his lead and would go on to collect the Stage 2 victory.

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 Larson, who was on a two-stop schedule, his lead 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.

“It stings for sure,” Larson said. “To not get a win in a prestigious race like this. I want to win the Southern 500 really bad.”

The race was scheduled to begin at 6:15 Eastern but lightening in the area pushed back the start by nearly an hour.

Next up on the schedule is the final race before the start of the 10-race Cup playoffs – the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next week.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – Bojangles’ Southern 500

Darlington Raceway

Darlington, South Carolina

Sunday, September 2, 2018

               1. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 367.

               2. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 367.

               3. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 367.

               4. (22) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 367.

               5. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 367.

               6. (9) Kurt Busch, Ford, 367.

               7. (5) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 367.

               8. (7) Erik Jones, Toyota, 367.

               9. (31) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 367.

               10. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 367.

               11. (3) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 367.

               12. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 367.

               13. (19) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 367.

               14. (12) Aric Almirola, Ford, 367.

               15. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 367.

               16. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 367.

               17. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, 366.

               18. (23) David Ragan, Ford, 366.

               19. (6) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 366.

               20. (26) Michael McDowell, Ford, 365.

               21. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 365.

               22. (24) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 365.

               23. (4) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 365.

               24. (29) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 364.

               25. (15) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 364.

               26. (27) Bubba Wallace #, Chevrolet, 363.

               27. (34) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 360.

               28. (33) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 360.

               29. (16) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 358.

               30. (35) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 357.

               31. (32) * JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 350.

               32. (37) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 347.

               33. (38) * Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 346.

               34. (40) * Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 344.

               35. (10) William Byron #, Chevrolet, Engine, 329.

               36. (17) Clint Bowyer, Ford, Accident, 309.

               37. (36) * Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Engine, 268.

               38. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Rear End, 254.

               39. (20) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Oil Pump, 227.

               40. (39) Joey Gase(i), Toyota, Accident, 120.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  131.408 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 48 Mins, 54 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.224 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 35 laps.

Lead Changes:  7 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin 1-11; K. Larson 12-129; M. Truex Jr. 130-159; K. Larson 160-258; B. Keselowski 259-260; J. Logano 261-278; K. Larson 279-345; B. Keselowski 346-367.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Larson 3 times for 284 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 30 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 24 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 18 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 11 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 42,20,78,22,2,4,11,41,18,9

Stage #2 Top Ten: 42,2,22,9,20,41,31,18,1,4

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 2 2018
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