When NASCAR announced a new rules package in the off season similar to what was used in last year’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, teams and fans took a wait-and-see approach.
After what everyone saw during Saturday night’s 400-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the 1.5-mile track of Kansas Motor Speedway, it looks like seeing is believing has come to fruition.
Twelve different drives led the race, multiple passes took place through the field, exciting restarts with two- and three-wide battles, leaders fell back from pit stops and pit road penalties to produce one of the best 1.5-mile races since, well, last year’s All-Star event.
Keselowski started fourth in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford, but started to fall back through the standings and raced outside the top-10 for much of the race. However, great calls from the pit box and stops by the crew kept, and leapt, him back into the top 10 and then top five.
He took the lead from Alex Bowman with six, of the scheduled 267, laps remaining. A caution came out with three to go for Matt DiBenedetto when his No. 95 went kerplow with motor problems.
When the green waved for the final time, Keselowski leapt to the lead and never looked back. This was his third win of 2019 and 30th for his career.
“On the (last) restart, I just got a great launch on Alex Bowman,” Keselowski said. “He did a great job. We had a little bit of fresher tires than he did and we were able to make the move on the outside there and caught everything perfect.
“I am just thankful to be at this level. I never dreamed I would ever be in the Cup Series. I just dreamed of making a living in racing.
“I worked with guys like Mike Mittler who taught me the grit and energy and effort you have to have to be successful in this sport. Mike was local to this area and he passed away yesterday (Friday). It hurts to lose guys like that because they mean so much to me and the sport.”
Mittler was instrumental in launching the careers of Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards and Keselowski, to name a few.
As far as Bowman, this was his third-consecutive finish in second place. He joins the likes of Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Darrel Waltrip and Harry Gant who have also experienced the runner-up blues three peat.
He summed his night up with a simple sentence, “This one really hurts.”
One record that came to a stop, for now, was Kyle Busch trying to best Morgan Shepherd’s top-10 consecutive finishes mark. With both tied at 11 coming into the event, Busch’s hopes were dashed when he earned a pit road penalty for driving through too many boxes (four) coming in for his stop.
As of right now, the 29-year old mark set by Shepherd, and matched by Busch, stays put.
Next up is the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Friesen Falls Three Short
Stewart Friesen had the dominant truck, led the most laps, won stages and appeared en route to his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. However, with three to go, he ran out of gas as a result of miscommunications between he and the crew on a pit stop. They thought is was a four-tire stop, he thought two and left the pit box before getting enough Sunoco to make it to the end.
That handed the lead over to Ross Chastain, who went on to win his first Truck Series race. They are back in action this Friday at Charlotte.