BRISTOL, Tenn. – Brad Keselowski was in the right place at the right time to steal the victory during Sunday’s running of the Supermarket Heroes 500 presented by Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Keselowski snagged his second NASCAR Cup Series win in the last three races despite sitting third during the final restart of the race with five laps left.
At that point, Chase Elliott was the leader over Joey Logano for a shootout to the finish that ultimately got physical.
The pair had already exchanged blows battling for the lead alongside Denny Hamlin with 11 to go, just moments before Hamlin spun from contention off turn four to bring out the 17th yellow of the day.
Following the resumption of green-flag action at lap 496, Elliott committed to the top line at first, while Logano pounded the bottom groove in an effort to make time and try to pass the leading No. 9.
A lap after the restart, Logano’s efforts paid off, as he completed the move on Elliott to slide to the point. Elliott refused to back down, however, and moved to the bottom to try and counterpunch.
Working lap 498, Elliott powered to Keselowski’s inside in turns one and two, but washed up on corner exit and tagged the left-rear corner of Logano’s Ford as the pair spilled onto the backstretch.
The two raced side-by-side into turn three, where disaster was waiting.
Ellliott’s car stepped out of the bottom groove quickly, came up into the side of Logano’s Ford and the momentum carried both cars straight into the outside wall in a grinding incident that squelched both drivers’ hopes at victory.
As that happened, the lane opened up down low and Keselowski drove straight through, going on to his 32nd career Cup Series victory by .471 seconds over Clint Bowyer at the checkered flag.
It was a moment that left Keselowski shaking his head as he climbed from his car, but still jubilant at the circumstances that led to his third triumph at the track dubbed “The Last Great Coliseum”.
“We kind of got a Christmas present here in Bristol, and we’ll take it,” said Keselowski. “We were in position and able to strike when it counted with the Discount Tire Ford Mustang. Joey and Chase got together there. I don’t know what all caused it, but we were just in position to strike.
“Now, here we are in victory lane.”
Sunday’s finish brought back memories of what many have referred to as “the old Bristol,” where contact traditionally reigned supreme and tempers flared regularly after 500 laps at the concrete half mile.
After 17 caution flags, a bunch of torn-up sheet metal, a pair of crashes for the lead and a lot of luck on Keselowski’s part to end up in victory lane, it was clear those recollections were well founded.
Keselowski was quick to reference his good fortune in regards to the victory, after initially being prepared to settle for a solid third-place finish before all the chaos ahead of him broke out.
“I think everybody on this Discount Tire Ford Mustang team is gonna go to Vegas. Is it open yet? Because things have been going our way lately, from the luck of the draw on qualifying to the last few laps there today,” he noted. “We couldn’t get anything to go our way at the start of the race … with cars staying out so that I kept getting the bottom lane on restarts, nothing was working out, but then right at the end we came in and put two tires on the left (side) and drove up to fourth or sixth to put ourselves in position.
“Like I said, I could see Joey and Chase were getting really racy there … and I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew if I kept my eye open that something good might happen. Sure enough, it did,” Keselowski continued. “What an incredible day. I’m so happy for the team. This was a never-give-up effort. That’s what we’re becoming as a team.”
Bowyer came through the calamity of the final few laps for second, marking his best finish in a NASCAR Cup Series race since a similar runner-up effort at Texas Motor Speedway on March 31, 2019.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson was third, soothing the sting of a disqualification after the Coca-Cola 600 one week earlier, followed by Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.
Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace completed the top 10.
The wild finish was set up after Hamlin got wide coming off turn two at lap 489, allowing Logano and Elliott to shoot through the middle of a three-wide sandwich with Hamlin and the slower car of B.J. McLeod.
Hamlin then spun off turn four and collected McLeod on the inside of the frontstretch, leading to the game-changing restart. Hamlin, a two-time winner this season, ultimately finished 17th.
In addition to the 17 caution periods, the race was stopped for 11 minutes and 35 seconds by a red flag following a multi-car incident at the end of the backstretch on lap 229.
That crash eliminated the likes of pre-race hopeful Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Alex Bowman.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.