PENALTY HANDS FOLDS OF HONOR 500 VICTORY TO BRAD KESELOWSKI
While Brad Keselowski had a very fast Ford, Kevin Harvick's Ford was just a tad faster. Fortunately for Keselowski, with less than 20 laps to go, Harvick was too fast on victory lane giving Keselowski his 22nd career Cup Series win and his first at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
For a few brief laps, Kyle Larson stood in the way of Keselowski. Unfortunately, Larson, while making the right choice to block Keselowski just didn't have enough to hold him off.
“I'd spent a lot of time around him throughout the race, especially on the short runs he was better than I was, and he would always pass me in 1 and 2. I knew I was going to have to try and take his line away. I tried a few times, and he finally kind of guessed where I was going right one lap and got to my inside,” said Larson.
“(I am) disappointed we didn't get the win, but we typically struggle really bad in the early races of the season, so to finish second this early in the year is awesome. We had a shot to win the 500 last week and a shot again today, so that's all you can ask for. Can't be more proud of everybody at our Chip Ganassi Racing team shop, Target, CreditOne Bank, all the other partners. So we'revhaving fun.”
When asked about the ranking of the win, given the struggle car owner Roger Penske felt great.
“Well, I think that's the DNA of our team,” Penske explained when asked aobut the ability of the team to never give up “We've had a lot of adversities over the years and we've had some wins. But I think if somebody were listening to the radio, Brad said after we had came into the pits, he said, hey, we're all one team, we're going to go here, and he said that on the radio to the guys, and I think that was key.
“I think if you watched him during the race, he was managing his tires. He knew that he could hurt the right front, and I think at the end there when he had to go, he still had something left.
“Now, could we have caught the 4, probably not. But that's a special win for us. And that's what we have to be because you lose more than you win in this sport, so I think that makes you tougher and stronger.”
Keselowski agreed with his car owner.
“Well, you know, wins are always special, but early in the season they're really good. You just can't take any wins for granted. I know I don't. I always feel like before a race, you obviously always want to win, and you always wonder yourself when your last win is going to be, and I'm not anywhere near retirement age, but you still think about those things and you think about how tough it just is to win at this level and how lucky you are to have a team to win. A great winning percentage at this level is one out of every 10 races, and one out of every 10 races, if you can pull that off, you're a Hall of Famer. I think that's just a testament to how tough it is. “
Despite his late race issues on pit road, Harvick rebounded for a ninth place finish behind Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Joeey Logano, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Jamie McMurray rounded out the top ten.
When asked about the pit road speeding issues during his press conference, Elliott avoided a revealing answer saying, “I think I know why, but I really don't want to share why. There's something that I think a lot of guys are kind of aware of that goes on on pit road, and that's something we need to address kind of internally. But I have a pretty good reasoning, and I think why it was, but I really don't want everybody else to know.
“I think it'll be corrected next week,” added Elliott when pushed for a deeper answer. “It's not that big of a deal. But it can be a big deal, you know, and in our case and in Kevin's case and all the guys that got caught. But no, I think it'll be fixed directly. “
Even with the ninth place finish, Harvick moved into the points lead, just four points ahead of Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch. Keselowski is now third in the points, two points behind Busch. Elliott and Logano round out the top five in the point standings.
The series moves west next week, with racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway followed by Phoenix Raceway and California Speedway.