Brad Keselowski did a lot of good things in The Real Heroes 400 Sunday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, NASCAR’s first race in more than 70 days during the COVID-19 pandemic. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford Mustang led 80 laps and won Stage 2, his second stage victory of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. But towards the end of the 293-lap, 400-mile event, Keselowski fell outside the top-10, landing in 13th-position at the checkered flag. With the finish, he jumps up to fifth-place in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, a gain of five positions.
Keselowski drew the pole for the Darlington event and led the first 44 laps of the race. He overcame a loose-handling condition to score a fifth-place finish when Stage 1 concluded on lap 90. He pitted for four tires and air pressure adjustments during the stage caution on lap 93 and restarted sixth when the race went green.
Two excellent pit stops by the Discount Tire team put Keselowski in contention to win Stage 2. Keselowski was running seventh when the sixth caution flag came out on lap 156. He pitted one lap later for four tires and lightning-fast service by the 2 Crew gave him second position for the restart on lap 160. The seventh caution on lap 174 set up another round of stops and once again the team made a fast stop, this time giving Keselowski the lead on lap 176. The driver did his part on the track, holding the lead for the next 10 laps to score the stage win when the segment concluded on lap 185.
The final stage brought a disappointing turn of events for the team. Keselowski grabbed the lead on lap 193 and held the top spot until lap 215. But over the final 79 laps, the No. 2 Ford Mustang steadily became more of a handful for Keselowski. As the Discount Tire Ford became more loose and Keselowski lost rear grip on the car, he couldn’t maintain position inside the top-10, and he took the checkered flag in 13th place when the race concluded on lap 293.
“We had an up and down day with our Discount Tire Ford and it finished on a down note after we lost the handling at the end,” said Keselowski. “It was nice to be leading for quite a while. It felt like with 100 laps to go we were going to win. I came off of pit road second and I don’t know if I just lost the clean air or what it was, but it just went completely away, and we fell back. We ended up finishing 13th which was a major bummer, but it is what it is. It is nice to be back and get the opportunity to race.”