Brad Keselowski was sidelined by an accident with just over 100 laps to go in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 Sunday evening at Martinsville Speedway. Keselowski was credited with a 33rd-place finish in the final rundown and is now ninth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 135 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
The 500-lap race, originally scheduled for Saturday night, was pushed to Sunday afternoon after rain halted the event after 42 laps. Keselowski lined up seventh when the race went green and said the balance on his No. 2 Mustang was too free on exit and was losing drive during the long run. He finished eighth when the first stage concluded on lap 130. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the call to pit during the during the stage caution on lap 134 for four tires and an air pressure adjustment, and Keselowski restarted eighth on lap 140.
Keselowski scored a sixth-place finish in Stage 2 thanks to a good restart following the fifth caution. For the majority of the segment Keselowski ran just inside the top-10 but was unable to make significant progress toward the front. Keselowski said he needed to turn better when he was off the brakes in the corners. He pitted for four tires on lap 242 and was running seventh when the caution waved 10 laps later. The race went green on lap 258 and Keselowski moved from seventh to sixth in the two-lap dash to finish the stage. He didn’t pit during the stage caution and restarted second when the race went green on lap 269.
The complexion of the race would soon change for Keselowski. He was running third when the eighth caution set up a round of pit stops on lap 290. A power steering issue greatly hampered his stop, shuffling Keselowski back to 15th position for the restart. The mechanical issues didn’t improve, and he spun in Turn 2 on lap 341, losing a lap in the process.
Keselowski briefly returned to the lead lap when Erik Jones spun on lap 372 and he received the free pass back onto the lead lap. But Keselowski’s day came to an end when he was caught up in the middle of a 12-car accident in Turn 2 on lap 387, leaving him with a 33rd-place finish.
“It’s just unfortunate that we got caught up in it,” said Keselowski. “It looked like some guys got in front of me and the track was blocked. It’s a bummer. I think our Autotrader Ford was really good. We drove up into the top five and lost the power-steering. I was able to manhandle it around the racetrack, but I couldn’t get down pit road where you go to turn in your pit box. I just couldn’t get the car stopped in the box and pointed the right way. We just have to figure out why we lost the power-steering that kind of put us behind.”