SPARTA, Ky. – Brad Keselowski held off Erik Jones and a charging Kyle Busch after a restart with 31 laps left and collected his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of the season in Friday night’s Kentucky 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
A late two-tire call put Keselowski in front for a restart on Lap 170, and though the No. 22 Team Penske Ford ceded the lead to Jones for 22 circuits, Keselowski regained the top spot with a daring move to the inside through traffic entering the tri-oval on Lap 92 and held on to win by less than a quarter-second.
The victory was Keselowski’s third at Kentucky and the 33rd of his career. Behind Keselowski, Jones and Busch, Daniel Suarez ran fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard.
Over the final run, Jones injected himself into what had been a two-way battle between Keselowski and Busch for the majority of the race.
Keselowski made the winning move after Jones’ progress was impeded by a lapped car in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 92.
“I just caught a little break, to be honest,” Keselowski said. “One of the lapped cars locked in Erik. He had done a heck of job and still was doing a heck of a job, and sometimes things don’t go your way.
“I kind of thought it might happen and went into the corner high, just ready for something to happen, and it did, and I was able to make the most of it coming off Turn 4 and make the pass for the lead.
“This team, the 22 team since it started in 2010, has been really a dream ride and an honor for me to be a part of it.”
Jones got the lead on the final restart when Busch shoved Keselowski and caused the No. 22 Ford to spin its tires.
“I wish I would have known the lapped car was going to the bottom and he would have went to the top,” Jones said. “Getting the lead on the restart, we had a shot at it at that point. It was good enough to maintain, and it’s a bummer it didn’t work out.
“But it’s nice to be running with those guys, with Kyle and Brad, and to be mixing it up with ‘em. We’ll keep building and see what we can do next time.”
At the outset, it didn’t take Busch long to move up from his sixth starting position to the lead. On Lap 16, the No. 54 Toyota shot past Ty Dillon through Turns 1 and 2 and took over the top spot for the first time in the race.
With the exception of the restart lap after a competition caution on Lap 25—with Paul Menard surging ahead by a nose at the stripe to lead Lap 31—Busch stayed firmly in control of the proceedings until a caution for Ryan Sieg’s spin in Turn 4 on Lap 71 slowed the field for the third time.
After pit stops under yellow, Keselowski wrestled the lead from Busch on Lap 79, moments before the No. 13 of Derek White clobbered the outside wall between Turns 3 and 4 to cause the fourth caution.
Undeterred by the yellow, Keselowski sped away after the subsequent restart on Lap 85 as Busch fell back to third behind Suarez. Busch, however, regained the second position on Lap 97 and narrowed his gap to the leader to a half-second before Keselowski pulled away to a 1.8-second advantage when Busch ran afoul of lapped traffic.
But Busch grabbed the top spot from Keselowski during an exchange of green-flag pit stops on Laps 136 and 137, leaving Keselowski at a half-second disadvantage. With both drivers saving fuel in the event of a green-flag run to the finish, Busch opened a one-second edge and maintained it until John Wes Townley’s brush with the wall on Lap 163 brought out the fifth caution.
Busch and Keselowski led the top cars to pit road on Lap 165, with Busch opting for four tires and Keselowski, Jones and Suarez for right sides only.
That left Keselowski in the lead and Busch in fourth for a restart on Lap 170. And on this night, two tires won the day, as Keselowski led Jones to the stripe by .241 seconds.
Note: Eleventh-place finisher Chris Buescher extended his series lead to 36 points over Chase Elliott, who ran 13th, the first driver one lap down.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Kentucky 300
1. (4) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 200, $88227.
2. (7) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 200, $64594.
3. (6) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 200, $54681.
4. (10) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 200, $39154.
5. (11) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 200, $34718.
6. (5) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 200, $24272.
7. (8) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 200, $28858.
8. (16) Dale Earnhardt Jr.(i), Chevrolet, 200, $21645.
9. (3) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200, $26609.
10. (13) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200, $26978.
11. (15) Chris Buescher, Ford, 200, $25522.
12. (17) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 200, $24991.
13. (14) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 199, $25435.
14. (12) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199, $23879.
15. (2) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 199, $26452.
16. (21) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 199, $23624.
17. (20) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 199, $23297.
18. (1) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 198, $23146.
19. (9) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 198, $23019.
20. (18) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, 197, $23393.
21. (29) David Starr, Toyota, 196, $22767.
22. (28) Blake Koch, Toyota, 196, $22636.
23. (22) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 196, $22484.
24. (26) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 194, $22332.
25. (32) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 194, $22356.
26. (23) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 194, $22080.
27. (27) Eric McClure, Toyota, 192, $21953.
28. (31) Tyler Young(i), Chevrolet, 190, $21826.
29. (24) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 189, $21674.
30. (39) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 180, $15848.
31. (34) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, Brakes, 166, $21422.
32. (19) John Wes Townley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 158, $21295.
33. (36) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, Engine, 116, $15185.
34. (33) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Vibration, 107, $15073.
35. (25) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, Electrical, 90, $20947.
36. (35) Derek White, Toyota, Accident, 75, $19460.
37. (38) Josh Reaume #, Dodge, Suspension, 10, $12460.
38. (37) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Carburetor, 10, $11460.
39. (40) Ryan Ellis(i), Chevrolet, Vibration, 3, $10460.
40. (30) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 3, $9460.
Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images