Three years ago, Brad Keselowski made a stunning last-lap pass on Ryan Newman to win at Talladega Superspeedway and punch his ticket to the Round of 8. On Sunday, the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion driver did it again—powering his Team Penske Ford past Newman’s Chevrolet on the last lap to secure a spot in the semifinal round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
BK showed once again that he’s the driver to beat on restrictor plate tracks—and especially at NASCAR’s longest track in Talladega. Kes now boasts five trips to Victory Lane at the 2.66-mile Alabama track, good for sole possession of fourth place all-time, just one win behind Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ironically, Brad’s No. 2 Miller Lite machine was paying homage to Dale Jr. in the win, making a spectacular weekend that much more special.
“This is still sinking in,” BK said. “It is a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks. It really takes all three and we had them all today.”
Only 14 cars finished the race, including just 12 on the lead lap in a wild afternoon of restrictor plate racing. Brad managed to skirt through each wreck—successfully filling the luck factor that is vital to a win at Talladega. And for part of the race, BK did it with no contact whatsoever with his crew chief Paul Wolfe or his sponsor Joey Meier, who is always instrumental to his success in restrictor plate events.
“It was one of those crazy days,” Brad said. “I think we have seen that at the plate tracks this year. A lot of attrition. Everything that could happen to us today did happen. From the radio problem to coming from the back a couple of times, we just were up against it today. Thankfully, with the moves we were able to make and the help of got from my spotter (Joey Meier). We just stuck with it and we were able to win.”
Early on, Team Penske employed some strategy to earn a Stage 1 win. Brad and his teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney slipped back out of line midway through the first stage and pitted early. As a result, they cycled out to the front for the conclusion of the first stage, earning Brad a valuable playoff point, as well as 10 extra stage points. Brad later finished ninth in Stage 2, just one position behind Blaney away from a Talladega sweep.
Late in that second stage, the Miller Lite Ford lost its radio antenna, leaving Brad out in the cold. With no contact with his spotter, BK slid back to 15th before pitting under green at lap 145. On this stop, Kes made a power move, passing several drivers before slowing his machine down entering pit road. During the two-tire stop, Brad’s crew tried to hook him up with a new antenna, but only a partial connection was made.
After a caution with 33 laps to go, BK made a speech about how he could win the race without the radio, but Wolfe called him back down pit road. The Miller 2 Crew successfully repaired the radio, and the three men who know their way around a restrictor plate track as well as anyone in the sport were connected once again.
Kes restarted 30th with 29 laps to go and regained 10 spots. He then skated through several massive wrecks relatively unscathed, and after three red flags totaling more than 30 minutes of downtime, Brad found himself leading the remaining field with three laps to go. Ryan Newman led taking the white flag, but BK could not be denied at his best track. Kes used one final bump from his teammate, Logano, to gain the final edge over Newman and lead his seventh lap of the race as the checkered flag flew.
“It’s nice to be locked into the next round, but then again, we still have work to do,” BK said. “We aren’t going to be happy until we are racing in Homestead for a Championship.”
MENCS PLAYOFF STANDINGS
- Martin Truex Jr. – 3120*
- Brad Keselowski – 3101*
- Kyle Larson – 3096
- Kevin Harvick – 3089
- Denny Hamlin – 3088
- Chase Elliott – 3087
- Ryan Blaney – 3076
- Jimmie Johnson – 3074
— ROUND OF 8 CUTLINE —
- Kyle Busch – 3067
- Matt Kenseth – 3066
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 3052
- Jamie McMurray – 3045
* – Clinched Round of 8 Berth