By Dustin Albino

CONCORD, N.C. — Brad Keselowski could see another crown jewel victory out his windshield. All he had to do was pass Christopher Bell, who led a race-high 90 laps, with what he felt was the best racecar in the field.

After a lackluster 30th-place qualifying effort on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Keselowski raced through the field at rapid pace, earning three stage points in the opening stage. The No. 6 Ford shined on long runs, something that the Matt McCall led team has excelled at over the past month, dating back to Kansas Speedway. At the end of Stage 2, he was up to fifth.

Teams knew that significant thunderstorms were approaching Charlotte as Stage 3 began. And on Lap 246, the caution flew with Bell ahead of Keselowski. More than an hour passed before NASCAR declared the race official, awarding Bell his second win of the 2024 season.

Keselowski finished second for the third time in the last six Cup Series races.

“It’s pretty disappointing. I felt like we had a car to win the race,” Keselowski said after the race. “We ran down [Bell] twice and didn‘t get to see it play out. It slipped through our fingers.

“Overall, really happy with our performance. The car was really fast, the pit stops were phenomenal. Just didn‘t get to see it through. Bummed for our team; bummer for everybody. The weather is what the weather is.”

Keselowski was informed of the situation that was playing out with the weather and drove as hard as possible to begin the third stage. It took his car longer than others to come to life, believing he needed 10 more laps to pass Bell.

“I think we had more speed, but there was a pretty big air advantage that he had,” Keselowski added. “As laps would go on, the aero grip gets displaced by the mechanical grip and then we could take him. I feel like [Bell] was the second best car today, but he was the second best car. So to be able to displace him, we needed him to fall off. That‘s only going to happen with laps and catching the back of the pack and we didn‘t get that.”

By scoring 53 points at Charlotte, Keselowski moved up two positions in the regular season standings to ninth. He passed Ryan Blaney as the highest-running Ford driver.

Keselowski has jumped nine spots in the championship standings over the last six races, highlighted by his victory at Darlington Raceway, snapping a 110-race winless drought. Three of his four top-two finishes over that span have come on intermediate race tracks, which is where the No. 6 team has flashed its most speed in 2024.

“It was good to be that fast,” Keselowski said of Charlotte. “You want to make it count with wins. You don‘t want to be a sore loser for second, but it stings because I know we had a car to win today. If it doesn‘t hurt, you‘re in the wrong business.

“We‘ve got a lot of work to do on our short-track program and our road-course program, but our mile-and-a-half stuff seems really good right now.”

The Cup Series heads to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway next week where Keselowski has a best finish of 20th in two starts. On the bright side, he was the most recent driver to win at the track in the Xfinity Series, dating back to 2010.

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