Keselowski overcomes loose wheel to win Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
By Kyle Magda
March 5, 2017
HAMPTON, Ga.—Brad Keselowski capped off his mad dash to the front with a race-winning pass on Kyle Larson in Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Keselowski dove beneath Larson with seven laps to go when the driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet started running the high side but it was to no avail.
The 2012 champ got the run on the inside and pulled away from Larson for his first Cup win in 19 races.
“Winning one of these Cup races isn’t easy,” Keselowski said in victory lane. “There are all kinds of adversity that comes at you, no matter who you are. Kevin [Harvick] was very, very strong and probably was the guy to beat. We persevered and had our own issues with a tire and a loose wheel and we just fought through it all day.
“Gosh, it feels so good … and we got to fly the American flag at the Folds of Honor race. It just seems right.”
It was a day dominated by pole-sitter Kevin Harvick who led 293 of the race’s 325 laps before a speeding penalty late cost any chance of the Stewart-Haas Racing driver at winning. Keselowski won the race off pit-road on lap 267 and took the lead from Harvick until the team discovered a loose lug-nut on the No. 2 AutoTrader Ford.
Nevertheless, it didn’t slow Keselowski down after restarting 14th and bouncing back over the final 58 laps to his first win of any kind at AMS.
“I love winning,” Keselowski said.”You know, when you win, you don’t know when you’re going to win again and you go through some spells … but gosh, it feels good to get a win early in the season like this.
“That was a great race with Kyle and everybody. We thought we were one of the cars to beat at Daytona and we got wrecked out there and never got to show our potential.
“We came here and kept our heads up this week and this is the result due to the whole team’s effort.”
Larson inherited the lead when Harvick sped on pit road and put a few car lengths on Keselowski in the first few laps after the final restart. The chip Ganassi Racing driver posted his career-best finish at the 1.54-mile track with the runner-up showing.
Larson stayed away from running the high side most of the event until the closing laps, allowing Keselowski to close in.
“Here at Atlanta, I don’t do a good enough job of running the top, so that’s why I committed myself to the bottom all day. After we got that Christmas present there … I knew Brad was going to be tough to beat. I spent a lot of time around him today.
“To finish second this early in the year is awesome. We had a shot to win the (Daytona) 500 and had a shot again today, so that’s all you can ask for.”
THROUGH THE FIELD
Matt Kenseth finished third followed by Kasey Kahne and hometown favorite Chase Elliott completed the top-five. Joey Logano rebounded to sixth as the dominant Harvick finished ninth after starting at the tail-end of the last restart.
It was the fourth year in a row the 2014 Cup champ led the most laps at Atlanta but didn’t win.
“I was going too fast on pit road, apparently,” Harvick said. “I just really hate it for everybody on our team. They put a great car under me and we did everything we thought we needed to do.”
“I knew I needed to be close to pit road speed because we were having trouble getting out of the box … but I didn’t think I was pushing it that close.
“When [the car] gets to bouncing there and you can’t really tell what speed you’re at, that’s why there are so many speeding penalties on pit road here. You just have to run it so close to the line, and I was too fast.”
Harvick won stages one and two during the 500-mile event in the first real test of the new format this season.
Keselowski’s win is the earliest he has won in the season during his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, besting his two Las Vegas wins in 2014 and 2016, a track where the series is headed next to start the West coast swing.
The Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway can be seen live next Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. IMAGE CREDITS: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts Daniel Courson/The Racing Experts