KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Just when it looked like Alex Bowman was finally going to earn his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, Brad Keselowski was there to steal his thunder.
Keselowski chased down Bowman to take the lead with less than 10 laps left, then survived a green-white-checkered restart to earn his third victory of the season on Saturday evening at Kansas Speedway in the Digital Ally 400.
Bowman, who entered Saturday’s race with two-straight runner-up finishes, looked like the man to beat late in the race. He was running second to Chase Elliott when a caution flag with 28 laps left for debris from Ryan Blaney’s Ford.
Keselowski, who hadn’t been a contender for much of the race, was one of several who hit pit road for four fresh tires while Elliott and Bowman remained on the track at the front of the field.
Racing resumed with 23 laps left and the battle quickly intensified, with third-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. going three-wide to take the lead from Elliott and Bowman. Meanwhile, Keselowski put his fresh tires to good use and was marching to the front.
Bowman moved to the lead with 19 laps left, dispatching Stenhouse out of turn two. Keselowski was right on his heels, quickly driving by Stenhouse for second.
For more than 10 laps Keselowski hounded Bowman, chasing him all over the track in an effort to find a way around him. He found the opening he needed coming down the backstretch with seven laps left, forcing his way to Bowman’s outside.
Keselowski used the momentum on the top through turns three and four to take the lead, with Bowman quickly falling back to third behind Erik Jones.
The final caution of the evening waved with five laps left when the engine in Matt DiBenedetto’s Toyota expired. That set up a green-white-checkered restart with Keselowski leading Jones and Bowman to the green flag.
Keselowski got a big jump on the restart and that was all he needed as he drove away from the battle between Jones and Bowman to earn his third victory of the season. After the race he dedicated the victory to late Truck Series team owner Mike Mittler, who died Friday after a battle with cancer.
“I’ve got to dedicate this win to Mike Mittler,” Keselowski said. “He helped a lot guys in their career, I was one of them. He is local to here and he passed away yesterday. Just such a huge loss for the NASCAR community. Just one of those unsung heroes that works in the garage. He gave his whole life to this sport. There are so many of those guys, so many of those fans and it just hurts to see those guys go away.”
Bowman was able to best Jones at the checkered flag for second, marking the third-straight week Bowman has finished second in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition. Elliott crossed the line in fourth after winning the second stage and local favorite Clint Bowyer finished fifth.
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