By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After taking the victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend, Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite team were riding a wave of momentum into the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Speed in Keselowski’s Ford Fusion was evident as he was second fastest in the first practice, behind Martin Truex, Jr. In qualifying, Keselowski topped the speed charts, edging out Truex’s No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry by three-hundredths of a second. The second practice was a disappointment as Keselowski was 21st fastest; his team then rebounded by moving to fifth on the charts in the final practice.
At the wave of the green flag, Keselowski slid back as Truex took the lead. Two cautions during the first stage led to varying strategies. During the first caution, Keselowski was warned by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series officials about his pit road entrance.
During the second caution, Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano stayed on track while Jamie McMurray took two tires during a caution near the end of the stage.
On the restart, Keselowski and the rest of the field swallowed Logano. McMurray fought hard, making it tough for Keselowski and others to pass. When the green and white checkered flag waved to end Stage 1, Keselowski was fourth, earning him seven Championship points.
At the beginning of Stage 2, Keselowski pushed forward. Cautions towards the end of the stage once again led to varying strategies. Keselowski kept Truex in his sights as the second stage ended, but could not catch him. In the end, he finished Stage 2 in second, behind Truex, earning another nine Championship points.
Keselowski ended up battling Chase Elliott and Truex for the next 90 laps. On lap 244, Keselowski finally captured the lead. He proceeded to pull away from Truex, building a nearly 10 car-length lead.
As the laps wound down, Keselowski’s lead over Truex stabilized. With under five laps to go, Truex began to run Keselowski down. Keselowski’s car slowed on the straightaways. With two laps to go, Truex blew by Keselowski.
Keselowski continued to slip back as Kyle Larson drove by. Next, Logano and Kyle Busch caught his stricken car. Busch and Logano made contact as they passed. Logano then got loose in turn three before clipping Busch. That sent Busch spinning into the infield as Elliott drove by. By the time Keselowski got to the line, he had fallen to fifth. This was Keselowski’s second top five in two races.
A clearly disappointed Keselowski explained after the race why his car slowed.
“It wouldn’t turn and I lost brakes, so that’s a pretty good indicator, but that’s the way it goes. That’s racing and that’s why you watch until the end and you never know what’s gonna happen.”
Keselowski also gave himself some of the blame for Busch and Logano’s wreck and in turn, their post-race brawl,
“I just had three-quarter speed and when everybody is charging behind you that’s gonna cause a wreck. I got of the way the best I could and I don’t know if it was enough, but I saw they wrecked. Maybe that was related and maybe it wasn’t.”
Keselowski and his team will now head to Phoenix International Raceway for the Camping World 500k where they hope to keep their fast speed from the last two weeks.