Brad Keselowski and the No. 6 Kohler Generators team tamed the Lady in Black Sunday night at Darlington, using varying pit strategy late to finish seventh in one of NASCAR’s longest and toughest races of the season.
Keselowski, the 2018 winner at Darlington, had ground to make up from the start after a qualifying effort of 27th, but did so patiently throughout the 500-mile event, the first in the NASCAR Playoffs.
He worked his way inside the top-20 by the end of stage one to finish 17th. The No. 6 pit crew gained him three spots in the stage break – one of many instances in which they gained ground on pit lane – as he fired off 14th for stage two.
Green flag stops were the talk of much of the evening, with a cycle playing out about 40 laps into stage two. Crew chief Matt McCall kept the No. 6 on track to long pit, and the strategy worked as Keselowski ultimately pitted from third after leading 11 laps. A yellow flag was displayed at lap 178 in which Keselowski took the wave around, resetting his position for the final 45 laps of the segment.
The Michigan native drove to a 17th-place finish in stage two and would restart 18th in stage three. He was up to 15th with 100 to go and again was on a long pit strategy when the caution came out again with 92 to go. At the time, less than 10 cars were on the lead lap with Keselowski in seventh. That strategy ultimately played huge favors in the remainder of the race, as Keselowski hit pit road for his final stop under green with 47 to go, then fended off a final caution with 27 to go to ultimately finish seventh.
Kansas Speedway hosts the second race of the NASCAR Playoffs next Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Race coverage will air on USA Network, and on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.