Supermarket Heroes 500 Recap - Keselowski Steals Win in Final Laps
Bristol Motor Speedway is known as The World’s Fastest Half-Mile and it certainly lived up to its billing on Sunday. In a wild race that left seemingly half the field wiped out by wrecks or other issues, it was a race that went right down to the final lap before a winner was crowned. Even without the usual 162,000 fans in attendance, there was still plenty of excitement for the racers and the viewers on television. The race wasn’t without its share of drama with the final crash coming on the next to last lap of the race to shake up the leaders one final time.
In the end, Brad Keselowski, who started from the pole position, managed to come up with the victory here, prevailing by 0.471 seconds over Clint Bowyer. Jimmie Johnson saw his 104-race winless stretch continue though he did finish third, while Kyle Busch and Erik Jones rounded out the top five. Eighteen of the 40 drivers ended up off the lead lap as there were 17 caution flags that covered 102 laps. That was more than 20 percent of the race when you get right down to it and marked the most cautions at Bristol dating back to 2006.
It was a wild race that saw a pair of crashes in the final 10 laps that altered the results of the race. Denny Hamlin hit the wall in turn 4 with six laps to go, taking him out of contention. He eventually finished 17th. Then, on lap 499, Chase Elliott, who saw victory slip through his fingers at Darlington thanks to a late crash right before a red flag and then lost the Coca-Cola 600 due to a late pit stop due to a caution flag that put the race in overtime, was holding the lead again. He got into it with Joey Logano, wiping them both out and giving Keselowski, who was running third, the lead. He had to make it around the track only once to take the checkered flag and the victory. Elliott and Logano finished 21st and 22nd, respectively.
Elliott had this to say about the crash with Logano that ultimately cost him a chance at victory:
“As soon as I turned off the wall I had zero chance of making it, I‘ll certainly take the blame, I just got loose. I really felt like that was my shot, he was really good on the short run and I felt like I had to keep him behind me right there in order to win the race, with only three or four laps to go. I hate we both wrecked.”
The crash on lap 499 put a damper on what was a strong run for Elliott, who won both stages of the race leading to the finish. All told, there were 21 lead changes among seven drivers in the race with four different drivers leading in the final 12 laps. Hamlin led a race-high 131 laps while Keselowski led 115 and Kyle Busch led 100. Elliott set the pace for 88 laps, Ryan Blaney, who finished last after crashing on lap 199, was in front for 60 while Matt DiBenedetto (four) and Logano (two) were the other guys to hold the lead.
Elliott, Keselowski, Hamlin, Logano and Kevin Harvick were the lone racers to finish in the top 10 of both stages in the race. By the time the race reached its conclusion, however, Keselowski was the lone racer from that group to end in the top 10 as he took the checkered flag. We told you about Elliott, Hamlin and Logano already, while Harvick was just outside the top 10 as he logged an 11th-place finish. It marked his first finish outside the top-10 in his nine races this season.
In the NASCAR Cup Series points standings, Harvick owns a 24-point advantage over Logano coming out of Bristol. Elliott stands third, 45 points back, while Keselowski (55 points back) is fourth and Alex Bowman (81 points back) is fifth. Bowman had a second straight disappointing showing as he was wiped out in a crash on lap 228 that also claimed Cole Custer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Tyler Reddick. He finished 37th in the race, marking his fourth straight finish of 18th or worse since he turned in a second-place showing in the first race coming out of the pause at Darlington.
After back to back weeks with races in the middle of the week, NASCAR gets a bit of a breather this week. The next race that takes place is the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 coming to you live from Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, June 7. That race on the 1.5-mile track kicks off at 3 pm ET and will be televised on FOX and the Performance Racing Network. Keselowski won the most recent race on the track on February 24, 2019 and has won two of the last three races here.