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Red Hot Keselowski Wins Playoff Opener

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 16 2018

Brad Keselowski kicked off the Cup playoffs with a win in Las Vegas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

 

Brad Keselowski arrived in Las Vegas for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race hot. He left even hotter.

The Team Penske driver won for the third straight week as he streaked away from the field on an overtime restart in the opening race of the 10-race, 16-driver playoffs.

“To start off the playoffs with a win is really strong,” he said. “Then three in a row and all that great stuff. It’s a testament to this  team here.”

In getting the win, Keselowski handed legendary team owner Roger Penske his 500th victory across all racing series.

“Five hundred wins today,” Keselowski said. “Huge day for The Captain.”

To get the victory, he had to survive a late-race wreckfest that produced a large handful of restarts.

“We nailed pit stops and restarts when it counted and that put us in position,” the former Cup champion said. “Those restarts were the key.”

Playoff drivers Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing and Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing filled out the podium.

Joey Logano of Penske and Ryan Blaney finished fourth and fifth respectively

The second round of the playoffs begins two races from now at Dover, Del. By that time, four of the 16 contenders will have been eliminated.

Keselowski will not be one of them.

Defending Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. claimed the Stage 1 victory. Keselowski of won the second stage.

It was a tough day for championship contenders as:

– Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet – who started the race tied for points lead with Kyle Busch – blew a tire and slammed the wall on Lap 148. Caught up was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones, who started the race from the pole. Both cars were forced to retire.

“It’s like Russian roulette every time you put these piece of crap tires on. One time it’s tight, one time it’s loose, one time they’re blistered.”

– Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports was knocked out of  the race when he got caught up in a spin by non-playoff driver Jamie McMurray, with 56 laps to go. He started the race eighth in points.

“Had a really good car today,” Elliott said. “Just barely clipped him.”

Potentially worse, Elliott suffered a shoulder injury in the wreck.

– Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing wrecked his car beyond repair with 21 laps to go. He started 13th in points. “Tried to get more than the car was capable of handling,” Hamlin said.

– Hendrick drivers Alex Bowman and seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson both had late race problems with tires, walls and contact during the final 12 laps.

– Kurt Busch of SHR was crashed out with two laps to go.

(This story will be updated shortly)

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 16 2018
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