Brad Keselowski scored a fourth-place finish in the rain-shortened Toyota 500 Wednesday evening at Darlington Raceway, for his best finish and second top-five result of the 2020 season. A gusty call by crew chief Jeremy Bullins late in the event, paired with a timely caution flag, gave Keselowski the race lead and propelled him into contention for a win. The driver of the PIRTEK Ford Mustang is now sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 67 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
Keselowski started Wednesday’s race eighth and he had his hands full with an ill-handling Mustang throughout Stage 1. He was also squeezed into the wall while racing Ryan Newman on lap 33 but he overcame those struggles to finish 16th when the segment concluded on lap 60. He pitted for wedge and track bar adjustments during the stage caution on lap 63, while the No. 2 crew also made repairs to the right-rear of the Ford Mustang. Keselowski restarted 25th when the race went green on lap 68.
During Stage 2, Keselowski gained and lost track position twice following pit stops and he continued to wrestle with the balance on the PIRTEK Mustang. He finished 14th when the stage concluded on lap 125 and he pitted during the stage caution for four tires, plus wedge and air pressure adjustments. Keselowski restarted 16th when the third and final segment began on lap 132.
Good fortune smiled on the PIRTEK team during Stage 3. Keselowski climbed his way into the top-10 on lap 166. As a sequence of green flag pit stops began on lap 174, Bullins made the call to keep his driver on the track. Keselowski cycled into the race lead on lap 176 and five laps later the caution flag came out, which gave Keselowski much-needed track position. He made his final stop for four tires during the 10th caution on lap 196 and he restarted eighth when the race went green three laps later. He worked his way through traffic and up to fourth position when Chase Elliott spun on lap 202 to cause the final caution. Moments later, a light rain began to fall and it quickly intensified, soaking the track and ending the race at lap 208.
“I thought we were in a really good spot,” said Keselowski. “We had made kind of an aggressive, bold move to stay out on the long run there and it was looking like it was going to pay off. The yellow came out and we hit pit road and lost a few spots there, which was a bummer, but we cycled back to fourth right when the next caution came out and were in position to have the optimum lane and be behind a car that had older tires. I was licking my chops, but the rain never gave us a chance. Just part of the way it goes. We weren’t the fastest car today, but I thought we persisted and put ourselves in a spot to potentially steal a race win with our PIRTEK Mustang and just came up a tiny bit short.”