Brad Keselowski grabbed his first top-five finish of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway. The driver of the America’s Tire Ford Mustang placed fifth, his fourth consecutive top-five finish at Auto Club Speedway. Keselowski jumped seven spots to 12th position in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings.
Keselowski started 15th in the 200-lap, 400-mile race but steadily worked his way through the pack to score a sixth-place finish when Stage 1 concluded on lap 60. He made a stop during the stage caution on lap 63 for four tires and restarted fifth when the race went green on lap 66.
The handling characteristics of the No. 2 Mustang were better on the long run in Stage 2 – the same as in the first segment of the race. Keselowski was able to gain positions during the second half of a run when he had more grip and scored a fourth-place finish when the segment ended on lap 120. He pitted during the stage caution on lap 123 for four tires and restarted seventh when the race went green on lap 127.
Keselowski was running eighth when a cycle of green flag stops began on lap 158. He and crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the decision to stay out a few laps after their competitors pitted. Keselowski cycled into the lead on lap 161 and held the top spot until he pitted under green on lap 166.
The move paid big dividends as the race entered its closing laps because Keselowski had fresher tires than his competitors. The driver of the No. 2 Mustang was up to 10th position by lap 182 and passed Jimmie Johnson for sixth on lap 195. Two laps later he moved into fifth-place when teammate Ryan Blaney made an unscheduled stop just three laps from the finish.
Brad on his top-five finish: “We had a good run today with the America’s Tire Ford. We ran fifth and there were some highlights, like being able to drive through the field there a couple times. Our Mustang had a lot of long run speed. Our team fought hard and scored a lot of points today to dig us out of a hole we had from early in the season. I think we executed well today. I probably could have done a little better on one of those early restarts, but the team did perform well. There were a lot of positives.”