Keselowski Captures the Win at Bristol in a Wild Finish

Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN — May 31, 2020

NASCAR’s first trip to a short track in this jumbled up season finds the Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway. The high-banked half-mile is not only fast but one of the toughest tests Cup drivers face on the circuit. It’s 500 laps that wear out both the drivers and the race cars.

Cars await the start at Bristol Motor Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Chase Elliott finally conquered the demons of the past few races by posting a win in the Thursday night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He will be one to watch at the “Last Great Colosseum.” As will Brad Keselowski, the Coca-Cola 600 winner at Charlotte, he starts on the pole today courtesy of a blind draw.

Race cars circle Bristol Motor Speedway at speed. / NASCAR Photo

Stages are 125/125/250 laps, Kyle Busch won the spring race last year. NASCAR has added traction compound to the lower groove of the race track in an effort to encourage side-by-side two groove racing. Because of no practice at the track, two competition cautions have been scheduled for 20 and 60 laps.

The Start

Keselowski chose the outside line at the start next to Aric Almirola who lined up next to him on the front row. Brad easily drove away at the drop of the green flag. Drivers seemed to avoid the traction compound early, waiting for it to heat up and get sticky. Ryan Newman ventured to the low side early and spun out on Lap 6, bringing out the yellow flag. On the first competition caution, nearly half the field stayed out, including leader Keselowski.

Stage One

The bottom grove began to come in and it quickly became the preferred line around the track. Keselowski continued to lead until the 2nd competition caution. Matt DiBenedetto stayed out and inherited the top spot as everyone else came to pit road.

Keselowski exited the pits first and lined up next to DiBenedetto on the restart. Kyle Busch was flagged for speeding on pit road and sent to the rear of the field for the return to racing.

Keselowski quickly went back to the front but was soon chased down by teammate Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott also passed to set up a battle for the lead with Blaney. The pair ran door handle to door handle until Elliott prevailed, he held on to take the Stage 1 Win.

Stage One Results

Position Car Driver
1 9 Chase Elliott
2 12 Ryan Blaney*
3 2 Brad Keselowski*
4 10 Aric Almirola*
5 22 Joey Logano*
6 4 Kevin Harvick*
7 21 Matt DiBenedetto*
8 11 Denny Hamlin
9 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10 48 Jimmie Johnson

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Matt DiBenedetto was caught speeding on the entry to pit road, losing all the track position he gained in Stage 1 having to drop to the rear of the field.

Stage 2

Blaney was first off pit road during the stage ending caution followed by Elliott and Keselowski. With a push from Brad, the Team Penske drivers moved to the lead. Elliott settled into 3rd, followed by Logano and Almirola.

Keselowski went back to the front as the leaders worked through lapped traffic. Blaney, trying to put pressure on the leader, overdrove the exit of Turn 2 and spun. He came to rest with his backend to the wall and nose sitting exposed on the top of the track. Ty Dillon could not avoid Blaney and knocked the front end off the #12 car putting Blaney out of the race.

Back to green flag racing, Keselowski again held the lead with Elliott 2nd. With 22 laps to go in the Stage, a major pile-up took out a number of cars and brought out the red flag.

Matt Kenseth got loose exiting Turn 2, he was able to straighten the car but the incident caused Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to check up. Jimmie Johnson got into the rear of Stenhouse and the melee was on. Stenhouse spun and collected the cars of Cole Custer, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick, all were eliminated from the event.

Back to racing with 15 laps to go in the Stage, Elliott led followed by Logano, Harvick, and Hamlin. Just three laps later the caution displayed again as Ryan Preece hit the wall in Turns 3 and 4.

The race restarted with a seven-lap sprint to the Stage finish. Elliott, Hamlin, Logano, and Harvick were the top four. Elliott held on for his 2nd Stage win of the day.

Elliott at Bristol / NASCAR Photo

Stage 2 Results

1 9 Chase Elliott
2 11 Denny Hamlin
3 4 Kevin Harvick*
4 22 Joey Logano*
5 18 Kyle Busch
6 14 Clint Bowyer*
7 24 William Byron
8 20 Erik Jones
9 2 Brad Keselowski*
10 17 Chris Buescher*

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Kyle Busch worked his way back to 5th after his Stage 1 ending pit road penalty.

The Final Stage

With several of the teams off-sync on pit stops, the top 5 on the restart were Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon, and Matt Kenseth.

Chris Buescher hit the wall and cut down a tire bringing out the caution again on Lap 268.

This time on the restart Hamlin led briefly until his teammate and last year’s race winner Kyle Busch drove past for the top spot.

On Lap 328, Austin Dillon cut a tire and slowed on the track bringing out the caution for the 13th time allowing the field to pit for fresh tires and fuel. Kyle Busch retained the lead as the race went back to green. Just 26 laps later Ryan Newman spun and the yellow waved again. The leaders chose to remain on the track protecting their positions.

At the drop of the green flag, Hamlin is able to move past Kyle Busch. With 120 laps to go the top 5 were Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, and Christopher Bell.

Lapped traffic again played a role, with 87 laps to go Kyle Busch trapped Hamlin behind a slower car and regained the lead. Jimmie Johnson also moved past Hamlin into 2nd place. Elliot and Harvick rounded out the top 5.

Late Cautions

With 68 laps to go, Kevin Harvick appeared to have a right front tire problem. His car would not turn and drove up the track and into the wall, clipping the front of Erik Jones. The caution allowed the leaders to pit and fuel up for the final laps. Fresh tires and adjustments set the field for the finish.

When the race went back to green it was Hamlin and Elliott battling for the lead. Elliott dove to the inside of the track and they raced side-by-side for several laps. Hamlin prevailed and held onto the number one position. With 50 laps to go, it was Hamlin, Elliott, Johnson, Logano and Martin Truex Jr. Jimmie Johnson sat in a position to break his 103 race winless streak.

Gary Gaulding hit the wall with 43 laps to go. The 16th caution of the day gave drivers a chance to catch their breath for the final sprint to the checkered flag.

The Finish

Restarting with 29 Laps to go, Hamlin and Logano shared the front row. With 20 laps to the finish, Hamlin and Logano battled for the lead with Elliott and Kyle Busch raced for 3rd with Keselowski lurking behind the top 4.

As the laps wound down, the leaders approached lapped traffic. Just entering the final 10 laps of the race Hamlin went high to pass a lapped car and got loose. Logano and Elliott dove inside and both passed the leader. As Logano moved to the top of the track he got loose and Elliott passed him. Hamlin got squeezed into the wall and spun making contact with B.J. McLeod costing Hamlin a chance at the victory.

The race went back to green with 5 laps to go. Elliott led and Logano was intent on taking the top spot. Logano dove to the bottom and took the lead with 4 to go, Elliott fought back diving to the bottom of the track on the next lap. They touched but Logano held firm. Elliott overdrove the corner and slid high into Logano with 3 to go. They touched again, this time harder and Elliott forced Logano into the wall.

Keselowski took the lead and Clint Bowyer surged into 2nd amid the chaos behind them. Johnson ended up 3rd. Logano finished 21st and Elliott 22nd, the final two cars on the lead lap. Both showing the results of their battle with dented fenders and flat tires.

Keselowski said, “It was a never give up effort,” that brought the team this win. Logano’s version of the incident, “He wrecked me, he got loose underneath me…I had a shot to win.” Elliott admitted getting loose and took the blame for the collision.

Another fascinating finish at Bristol.

Results of the Food City presents the Supermarket Heros 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway
Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 2 Brad Keselowski 500
2 14 Clint Bowyer 0.471 500
3 48 Jimmie Johnson 0.906 500
4 18 Kyle Busch 1.333 500
5 20 Erik Jones 1.585 500
6 3 Austin Dillon 1.731 500
7 1 Kurt Busch 1.955 500
8 24 William Byron 2.104 500
9 95 Christopher Bell 2.316 500
10 43 Bubba Wallace 3.072 500
11 4 Kevin Harvick 3.106 500
12 37 Ryan Preece 3.571 500
13 38 John Hunter Nemechek 3.657 500
14 34 Michael McDowell 3.718 500
15 6 Ryan Newman 4.009 500
16 42 Matt Kenseth 4.056 500
17 11 Denny Hamlin 4.144 500
18 96 Daniel Suarez 4.621 500
19 66 Timmy Hill 4.835 500
20 19 Martin Truex Jr. 6.299 500
21 22 Joey Logano 16.181 500
22 9 Chase Elliott 22.262 500
23 17 Chris Buescher -4 496
24 15 Brennan Poole -6 494
25 7 JJ Yeley -8 492
26 77 Garrett Smithley -11 489
27 0 Quin Houff -17 483
28 78 BJ McLeod -23 477
29 10 Aric Almirola -30 470
30 27 Gray Gaulding -44 456
31 21 Matt DiBenedetto -44 456
32 32 Corey LaJoie -125 375
33 51 Joey Gase -198 302
34 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -272 228
35 41 Cole Custer -272 228
36 8 Tyler Reddick -272 228
37 88 Alex Bowman -272 228
38 53 Bayley Currey -297 203
39 13 Ty Dillon -299 201
40 12 Ryan Blaney -301 199