The first race in the playoffs was held in Las Vegas last week and everyone was looking at the “Big Three.” Brad Keselowski decided he also was championship material and took control of the race. Driving for team Penske, Keselowski gave Roger Penske his 500th victory across all disciplines of motorsports. Keselowski was also the driver to give Penske his 400th victory.
The Southern Point 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race ended up being a war of attrition, as the majority of the postseason field faced problems throughout the race. Keselowski kept out of trouble to win for the third consecutive week. He picked a good time to get hot as he automatically advances to the second round of the playoffs.
“To start off the playoffs with a win is really strong,”
Keselowski, who also won Stage Two, said. “I know it’s three in a row and all that great stuff, but it’s really a testament to this team … we weren’t as fast as the [Martin Truex] car, but we nailed the pit stops and the restarts”
It seemed that Keselowski was the only playoff contender not to have any issues during the race, although the top-seven finishers were all in the field for the championship. Kevin Harvick blew a tire on lap 148 and collected Erik Jones, resulting in them finishing 39th and 40th.
Chase Elliott hit the wall on lap 212 and finished 36th. Kyle Busch spun through the infield grass, but managed to finish seventh. Denny Hamlin also spun in the infield grass and ended his day in 32nd.
Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Truex, Clint Bowyer and Alex Bowman were all involved in a late-race incident. Truex, Blaney and Almirola were able to continue and finish third, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Joey Logano scraped the wall but ended up finishing fourth. Austin Dillon started at the rear of the field but managed to finish 11th. Kyle Larson rebounded from a lap down because of a blown tire, managing to lead some laps and finish second.
Harvick and Jones took the biggest hits in the push for the Championship, but because of his large amount of playoff points accumulated during the regular season, Harvick is sitting fourth in the standings.
Jones, who did not have many playoff points drops to 15th in a 16-person field.
Truex, who won the first stage, took the series lead by two points over Kyle Busch. Keselowski, Harvick, Logano, Kurt Busch, Blaney, Larson, Almirola, Dillon Bowyer and Bowman are in the 12 advancing positions. At the conclusion of the first round, four drivers will be dropped from the field.
Johnson, Elliott, Jones and Hamlin are in need of a win or have to gain enough points in order to advance.
The second first round race is tomorrow night in Richmond.