Brad Keselowski scored an 11th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The driver of the Keystone Light Ford Mustang is 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 185 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
Keselowski started 13th in NASCAR’s longest race and battled a loose-handling Mustang throughout Stage 1. He was the last of the lead lap cars to pit during the first round of green flag stops, leading six laps before pitting for four tires and adjustments on lap 56. Keselowski was unable to make significant progress towards the front, leaving him with a 16th-place finish when the stage ended on lap 100. He pitted on lap 103 for four tires and a round of adjustments and restarted 14th on lap 107.
Unfortunately Stage 2 was more of the same Keselowski. The balance on the Keystone Light Ford stayed loose throughout the segment. He pitted on lap 146 for four tires and the team was unable to make a full adjustment in the left-rear wedge. He pitted under the second caution on lap 174 for tires and more adjustments but those changes didn’t make any big gains. Keselowski fought off the handling issues to claim a 16th-place finish when the segment ended on lap 200. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins took another big swing when Keselowski pitted during the stage caution, opting for four tires and an adjustment in the left-rear wedge. Keselowski restarted 21st when the race went green on lap 207.
The adjustments and never give up attitude added up to an improved race car for Keselowski in Stage 3. The handling on the No. 2 Mustang improved. He climbed up to 14th position by the time he made a scheduled green flag stop on lap 246. Even with a better handling car, Keselowski had to be careful not to overdrive Turns 3 and 4 during the remainder of the segment and was credited with a 13th-place finish when Stage 3 ended under caution on lap 300. He pitted during the following caution on lap 301 and restarted 10th when the race went green five laps later.
The restart was not kind to Keselowski. He was shuffled back to 14th but clawed his way up to 11th position by lap 323. Keselowski made his final stop on lap 349 for four tires and another round of adjustments. As the race neared its conclusion, Keselowski closed in on Kevin Harvick but unfortunately couldn’t find a way around his rival and was forced to settle for an 11th-place finish.
“That was a blue-collar night for sure” said Keselowski. “Jeremy and the guys on the Keystone Light team got us the best we were all night there at the end and we almost got a top-10.”