Whenever Brad Keselowski shows up to Talladega Superspeedway, he’s a threat to win. It’s been that way from his first ever start at the famed track, when he went to Victory Lane driving for James Finch.
With an eight-point buffer over ninth position on the playoff grid heading into Talladega, Keselowski was going to be aggressive in Sunday’s YellaWood 500. It would be optimal for the No. 6 team to increase its advantage over the elimination line, as the 2012 Cup Series champion has struggled on road courses in recent years, scoring just one top-10 finish across the last 18 road course events. The Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval closes out the Round of 12 next week.
Despite missing out on stage points in the first stage at Talladega, Keselowski earned his sixth stage win of the season, tying Martin Truex Jr. for the third most in the series. Ten points — and a playoff point — were awarded to the driver.
During the final stage, Keselowski got shuffled out of the front couple of rows and was trying to make a charge through the field. He was slotted as the second car on the outside lane, when he bumped Carson Hocevar through the tri-oval, triggering a multicar pileup. Ty Gibbs and Austin Dillon both hit the outside SAFER barrier and would retire from the race due to damage.
“It was just one of those Talladega pushing and shoving deals,” Keselowski said from the infield care center. “I just gave a really light push to the [Hocevar] and it turned around on him, so unfortunate for us. We were able to win the second stage and were in a pretty good position there. It sucks for everybody. I hate it for him; I hate it for us, but it is what it is.”
Though the No. 6 Ford had significant rear-end damage, Keselowski thought he would have been able to continue on had it not been for one of the toe links breaking. He was towed to the garage and was credited with a 33rd-place finish.
“It‘s not ideal, but I‘m not devastated,” Keselowski said. “I‘d be devastated if we ran terrible and wrecked, but we ran good and I‘m proud of our team for putting the effort we need to run up front and lead laps and win the second stage. It just didn‘t come together at the end.”
With just five playoff drivers scoring stage points and three finishing inside the top 10, the damage could have been worse for Keselowski’s championship aspirations. Instead, he enters the Charlotte Roval on the elimination line, two points ahead of Tyler Reddick.
“It‘s certainly not ideal,” Keselowski said of his points positioning heading into the Charlotte Roval. “I‘m glad we were able to win the stage. That certainly helps our points at least a little, but not as much as if we were able to finish the race out.”
Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace are tied for 10th in points, nine points below the bubble. Kyle Busch is 26 markers back, likely needing to win next Sunday’s race in order to advance to the Round of 8.