By Nick Lewis
Brad Keselowski is finally a winner in the Coca-Cola 600.
“I’m tickled to death,” he said. “One left, the Daytona 500. It’s been a great 10-year career I’ve had so far and I hate it took me 10 years to get this one.”
On an early Memorial Day morning Brad Keselowski jumped out in front of Jimmie Johnson for the second time in as many restarts with hopes of winning his first Coca-Cola 600.
Keselowski had inherited the lead from Chase Elliott, who was called into the pits by his crew chief Alan Gustafson to pit for tires during NASCAR’s overtime.
Keselowski was able to get a push from Bowman who restarted behind him and was able to get ahead of Johnson in Turn 1. He was able to clear Johnson and wasn’t challenged by him during the remaining three laps.
“I think the last two restarts gearing played a huge role in things,” said Johnson.
“I had control one the second to last restart and the 2 car just had a drag race to get going, just cleared me into Turn 1. The next one he should’ve had the advantage and did but I think we need to play with our gearing on the restarts.”
Keselowski has now won four of the five races he considers “crown jewel” races which include the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, the Brickyard 400, the Coca-Cola 600, and the Bristol night race.
Keselowski is a big supporter of the Armed Forces and is the founder of the Checkered Flag Foundation which supports veterans during their recovery process. He also flies the American flag from his car when he wins each race.
“I’m just so thankful to finally win this race, to be able to do it with the American flag, on Memorial Day weekend with how much it means to me, my family, the foundation I have and having Donovan Reed on the car,” said Keselowski.
The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford had to start towards the back of the field because of an unapproved adjustment made after qualifying and methodically worked its way towards the front.
Crew Chief Jeremey Bullins believed that if his car could get out front that they could lead but said the car had more short run speed than it did on the long run, so when the caution came out they knew what to do.
“We had already made our decision that if we got that late caution that we were going to stay out and take a shot at it,” said Bullins. “It’s so important to win a race and give up that front row at the end of these things.”
With the Cup series returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday night, Keselowski and Bullins will have to start 20th because of a field inversion of the Top-20. Even with the conditions being similar to what was experienced tonight.
Bullins said that the team will not be bringing the winning car back to the track Wednesday. He said that they’ve spent a lot of time on the car he plans on bringing and the cars are built close enough they can apply what they learned in the Coca-Cola 600 to the race on Wednesday.
William Byron and Alex Bowman will share the front row for Wednesday’s Alsco Uniforms 500k.
Bowman led 164 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 and he should be a contender if things fall his way.
NASCAR returns Wednesday, May 27 at 8 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 for the Alsco Uniforms 500.