Surprising Win for Brad Keselowski at Bristol

Surprising win for Brad Keselowski in the NASCAR Cup Series Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – MAY 31: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on May 31, 2020 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was a surprising win for Brad Keselowski in the NASCAR Cup Series Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Bristol Motor Speedway put on exactly the kind of wild finish that made the track one of the most popular venues on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Brad Keselowski was in the perfect position to take advantage of hard racing in the closing laps and earned the victory in Sunday’s Supermarket Heroes 500.

With two laps remaining, the race leaders Joey Logano and Chase Elliott collided in front of the field. Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford rallied on to take the lead and earn his second win of the season – holding off fellow Ford driver Clint Bowyer by 0.471-second.

Bowyer joked after the race…

“I wasn’t going to have a problem apologizing to Brad for dumping him at the end.”

Brad Keselowski’s Reaction to the Victory

Keselowski seemed almost surprised as he was satisfied by the ultimate positive outcome. He had been fast all day even when he wasn’t leading. But all three of the late-race leaders – Denny Hamlin, Logano, and Elliott crashed out inside of ten laps remaining.

“We kind of got a Christmas present here in Bristol,” Keselowski said. “We’ll take it.

“We were in position and able to strike when it counted with the Discount Tire Ford Mustang. Joey and Chase got together there. I don’t know what all caused it, but we were just in position to strike and here we are in Victory Lane.”

Third-Place Jimmie Johnson

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson finished third, followed by Bristol’s all-time winningest driver Kyle Busch, and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones. Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, William Byron, rookie Christopher Bell, and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top-ten on a day of high action and drama.

“Wild and crazy for sure,” Johnson said. “I wish there were more long runs but still salvaged a great day out of it.”

Motivation at the Front

There was plenty of motivation at the front of the field with plenty of cars showing the way there.

Keselowski started on the pole with his 115 laps led second only to Denny Hamlin’s 131 laps out front. Keselowski certainly set the early pace upfront and consistently ran among the top-ten all day.

He said he had trouble hitting the restarts correctly as the race went on and conceded he got frustrated, “I was pushing really hard and got a pit road speeding penalty and thought, man, I’m just digging a hole.”

In the end, however, he was exactly where he needed to be to hoist the trophy.

What Changed in the End?

With less than ten laps to go, Hamlin and Elliott were dueling at the front of the field for the victory before Hamlin hit the wall in turn four with six laps remaining. Elliott and Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano took up the fight for the lead, ultimately colliding into the wall in turn four, leaving a golden opportunity for Keselowski to sail by and take over the lead to win.

“It was just such a turn of events it felt like I was playing poker in Vegas,” Keselowski joked.

Logano, who ended up 21st and Elliott, who ended up 22nd, had an intense conversation on pit road after the race.

“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,” Elliott said. “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.”

Looking at the big picture perspective, however, Elliott had yet another strong day winning the first two stages.

His fast No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won the most recent series race on Thursday at Charlotte and was runner-up to Keselowski in the 600 as well.

Kyle Busch, the Winningest Driver at Bristol

It was also a promising day for Kyle Busch, who had led only 14 laps this entire season coming to Bristol, where he is NASCAR’s all-time winningest driver. Busch has eight Cup, nine Xfinity, and five Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series victories. He ultimately led 100 laps Sunday, earning his fifth top-five finish of the season and his third in the last four races.

Busch turned in a great effort. After getting a penalty for speeding on pit road early, he fell back as far as 31st. Busch then methodically and expertly worked his way forward to lead laps and reveal his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as a strong competitor in the outcome.

Ryan Blaney’s Strong Day Ends

Ryan Blaney led 60 of the opening laps and was challenging his Team Penske teammate Keselowski for the race lead when he hit the wall on lap 199 of the 500. As Blaney’s No. 12 Ford came down off the wall, Ty Dillon was unsure where Blaney’s car was sliding and slammed into the front of it.

In an otherwise promising day, radiator damage spelled the end for Blaney.

But as he reassured his crew heading onto pit road, “at least we’ve got something to build off for the Playoff race here.”

The Big One at Bristol

A big accident, affecting eight cars in various degrees of damage, ended Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s day at his favorite track. Stenhouse was running top-ten for much of the early race. He was among the frontrunners and caught up in a chain-reaction accident.

While slowing for Matt Kenseth in front of him, Stenhouse was nudged from behind by Jimmie Johnson. The contact sent Stenhouse hard into the wall, and subsequently, he collected a half dozen others. Those drivers included 2020 race winner Alex Bowman and impressive Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer. The incident caused all three drivers to end their day.

In Summary and Up Next

In all, there were 17 caution periods for 102 laps on the day – the most in a Bristol race since 2006.

With an 11th-place finish, Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick continues to lead the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings by 24 points over Logano and 45 over Elliott.

The series moves to the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Then they compete in another mid-week special at the smallest oval on the schedule, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Wednesday night, June 10.

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 60th Annual Food City presents the SUPERMARKET HEROES 500

Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol, Tennessee

Sunday, May 31, 2020

                1. (1)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500.

                2. (23)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 500.

                3. (24)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 500.

                4. (7)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500.

                5. (15)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 500.

                6. (20)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 500.

                7. (12)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 500.

                8. (13)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 500.

                9. (35)  Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 500.

                10. (36)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 500.

                11. (8)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 500.

                12. (33)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 500.

                13. (18)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 500.

                14. (25)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 500.

                15. (17)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 500.

                16. (14)  Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 500.

                17. (10)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500.

                18. (37)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 500.

                19. (38)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 500.

                20. (5)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 500.

                21. (3)  Joey Logano, Ford, 500.

                22. (6)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500.

                23. (19)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 496.

                24. (34)  Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 494.

                25. (40)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 492.

                26. (31)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 489.

                27. (28)  Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 483.

                28. (39)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, Accident, 477.

                29. (2)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 470.

                30. (30)  Gray Gaulding, Ford, Accident, 456.

                31. (9)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 456.

                32. (32)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, Fuel Pressure, 375.

                33. (27)  Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, Too Slow, 302.

                34. (16)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 228.

                35. (22)  Cole Custer #, Ford, Accident, 228.

                36. (21)  Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, Accident, 228.

                37. (11)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 228.

                38. (26)  Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 203.

                39. (29)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 201.

               40. (4)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 199.

Supermarket Heroes 500 Stats

Average Speed of Race Winner:  80.338 mph.

Time of Race:  Three Hrs, 19 Mins, Two Secs. The Margin of Victory:  0.471 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  17 for 102 laps.

Lead Changes:  21 among seven drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Keselowski 1-62;C. Elliott 63;M. DiBenedetto 64-67;B. Keselowski 68-83;R. Blaney 84-104;C. Elliott 105-130;R. Blaney 131-169;B. Keselowski 170-203;C. Elliott 204-223;J. Logano 224;C. Elliott 225-255;D. Hamlin 256-277;K. Busch 278-329;C. Elliott 330;K. Busch 331-360;D. Hamlin 361-416;K. Busch 417-434;C. Elliott 435;D. Hamlin 436-488;C. Elliott 489-496;J. Logano 497;B. Keselowski 498-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Denny Hamlin three times for 131 laps; Brad Keselowski four times for 115 laps; Kyle Busch three times for 100 laps; Chase Elliott seven times for 88 laps; Ryan Blaney two times for 60 laps; Matt DiBenedetto one time for four laps; Joey Logano two times for two laps.

Stage 1 Top-Ten: 9,12,2,10,22,4,21,11,47,48

Stage 2 Top-Ten: 9,11,4,22,18,14,24,20,2,17