Brad Keselowski held off Jimmie Johnson in a NASCAR overtime finish to win the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Keselowski scored his first career victory in NASCAR’s longest race. The win was his first of the 2020 season and the his second in his career at Charlotte. It represented his 31st victory in NASCAR Cup Series competition and his 30th triumph in NASCAR’s premier series for Team Penske. With the win, he jumps up to fifth-place in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings.
Keselowski qualified ninth for the race but unapproved adjustments to the Miller Lite Ford Mustang forced the former Cup Series champ to start at the rear of the 40-car field. He had moved up to 16th position when rain forced the cars to pit lane on lap 50 for a delay of just over an hour. When the event resumed, Keselowski has his hands full with the handling on the No. 2 Mustang, but he persevered and finished 16th when Stage 1 concluded on lap 100.
Stage 2 was much of the same for the No. 2 Miller Lite team. Keselowski ran inside the top 15 for most of the segment but worked his way up to 12th position when the stage ended on lap 200. He pitted for four tires during the caution on lap 204, and quick work by the No. 2 Crew moved Keselowski up to 10th position when the race went back to green on lap 208.
Keselowski ran inside the top-10 for nearly all of Stage 3. He took the lead for the first time during a cycle of green flag stops on lap 256. He held the top spot for seven laps before pitting under green on 263 for four tires and adjustments. Keselowski was 11th when the fifth caution slowed the pace of the field on lap 276 and he was running eighth when the stage ended on lap 300. The Miller Lite Mustang made a four-tire stop during the stage caution and restarted seventh when the final segment began on lap 307.
Adjustments by crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the No. 2 crew for the changing track conditions paid off in the final segment. Keselowski was up to fourth when the seventh caution flag was displayed on lap 349. Excellent work by the Miller Lite team moved Keselowski up to second place for the race restart on lap 353. He passed Jimmie Johnson for the lead one lap later, holding the top spot until Chase Elliott moved by Keselowski on lap 363.
Elliott appeared to be in command of the race until the final caution flag flew with two laps to go, setting up a NASCAR overtime finish. Elliott chose to pit on lap 401, while Keselowski stayed on the race track and reclaimed the lead. Keselowski cleared Jimmie Johnson to maintain the lead off Turn 2 moments after the race went green on lap 403 and he never looked back. The Team Penske driver scored his first Coca-Cola 600 victory by .293 seconds ahead of Johnson, who was later penalized after his car failed post-race tech inspection.
“I’m so happy for my team,” said Keselowski. “I wish my wife and my daughters were here. It’s the Coke 600 and this leaves only one major left for me, the Daytona 500, so we’re checking them off. I’m really happy for Miller Lite and Ford and everybody who just works their butt off at Team Penske. We might not have been the fastest car today, but, wow, did we grind this one out. The pit crew at the end – during the yellow right before the last one – had a blazing stop to get us up front and put us in position. All these things just came together and I’m tickled to death. It’s a little overwhelming to be honest.”