Keselowski wins on last lap pass at Pocono Raceway
By Justin Melillo
June 10, 2017
LONG POND, Pa.—Brad Keselowski fought back from a late race slip up to take his first NASCAR XFINITY Series checkered flag of 2017 on Saturday afternoon.
The No. 22 Team Penske Ford returned to Victory Lane in the Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway for the first time since Ryan Blaney won at Dover Int’l Speedway in 2015.
On the final lap, Kyle Larson led Keselowski and Justin Allgaier into Turn 1, but Keselowski shifted into position under the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet off the corner. Larson couldn’t hold off the charge and slid back behind Allgaier’s No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet to finish third, while Allgaier came home second.
Keselowski started back in eighth position, but was a threat early, working his way past pole sitter Kyle Benjamin. Benjamin, making his second career start in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, stayed close for the most part, but it was Keselowski taking the first stage of the race. Benjamin would finish second in the stage, but would ultimately finish 16th at the end of the race.
In the second stage, Keselowski was again the dominant car, as he was able to get back to the lead around Rookie-of-the-year contender Cole Custer, driving the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
Custer had pitted with three laps to go in the first stage and stayed out during the stage caution, giving him much needed track position. He fell back and finished third at the end of the stage, and came home seventh overall.
On the final restart, Keselowski had a miscue on the restart, getting out of the groove and into the outside SAFER barrier. The contact was minimal, but the No. 22 had fallen to 10th place.
Keselowski dug deep, and as the race wound down, Allgaier and Keselowski were both closing on the leader. Keselowski capitalized on a mistake by Allgaier to take over second place, then made the gutsy move around Larson on the final lap.
“Really happy for the 22 team, it’s been a while,” Keselowski said in Victory Lane. “I think it's been well documented that they haven't been in victory lane.
“Discount Tire has been a part of this program for a long time. They deserve it. Without them I probably wouldn't have a career in NASCAR. They're on the car today, SKF, proud of them guys. It's good for Ford and everybody. It feels good for me, the team. They deserve it.”
Keselowski’s win widens the gap between the No. 22 and the No. 42 cars in the NASCAR XFINITY Owner points, with the difference now at 92 points.
Allgaier takes over the NASCAR XFINITY Series point lead for the first time in 2017 over his JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler by just one point. After the race, Allgaier spoke to The Racing Experts about his road to the top after 12 races, and how he plans to maintain it.
“Well for us, the challenge, number one, was getting to the points lead, Allgaier said. “We were down 70 points or something, maybe like six races ago. So we’ve had a steep battle in front of us and we knew we needed to work on it.”
“Now that we’re there, obviously, when you’re up front, you don’t want to relinquish the points lead, so we’ve got to do a really good job. Not necessarily giving up on offense but not focusing too hard on defense either.”
THROUGH THE FIELD
On the final restart with 16 laps to go, Elliott Sadler pushed the back bumper off of Keselowski’s car and moved himself into the lead. The lead would be short lived, however, as Larson had the lead by the next lap. Sadler’s strategy allowed him to take a day where he earned no stage points and turn it into a top-five run, coming home fourth, and falling to second in the points.
There was only one caution for a wreck during the 250 mile event, and it was Brandon Jones and the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet taking a wild ride on the frontstretch with 20 laps to go.
A flat tire was the culprit, and and it relegated the NASCAR XFINITY Series regular to a 36th place finish.
Next week, the NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to Michigan Int’l Speedway for the XFINITY 250.
Justin Melillo/The Racing Experts
Ford Performance Racing-Reference.info