Brad Keselowski recovered from a brush with the wall early in the Cook Out Southern 500 to grab an 11th-place finish Sunday night at Darlington Raceway. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford is now fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 51 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
Keselowski started fifth and ran inside the top-10 until he bounced into the Turn 3 wall while racing Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola on lap 80, bringing out the second caution and dropping him a lap down. The race went green on lap 86 and five laps later Keselowski moved into the free pass position as the first car one lap down. But leader Martin Truex Jr. lapped another car just before the stage ended on lap 115, keeping him a lap behind. Keselowski pitted during the stage caution on lap 119 for tires, adjustments and more repairs and restarted 31st when the race went green on lap 122.
The Discount Tire Ford ran lap times comparable to the leaders early in Stage 2. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins had just called his driver to pit road during a cycle of green flag stops when moments later the caution waved on lap 181. The fortunate turn of events put Keselowski back on the lead lap. He pitted under caution three laps later and restarted 19th on lap 185 and was credited with an 18th-place finish when the stage ended on lap 230. He pitted during the stage caution and good work on the pit lane by the Discount Tire crew moved him up to 15th for the restart on lap 235.
Keselowski was running 14th when the sixth caution waved on lap 245. A round of pit stops followed on lap 247 and once again the Discount Tire team gained positions on pit road, moving Keselowski up to 12th position for the restart on lap 250.
He had just made a scheduled pit stop and passed leader Chase Elliott to unlap himself when the final caution waved on lap 322. Keselowski pitted for four tires and restarted 17th on lap 326. He steadily worked his way through traffic and gained six position over the final 41 laps, capped off by a pass by Cole Custer on the final lap to grab 11th position.
“Jeremy Bullins and everyone on the Discount Tire team did a great job tonight,” said Keselowski. “I made a mistake early in the race, but we worked together and made a good recovery.”
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