Brad Keselowski appeared to be cruising toward the checkered flag at Martinsville Speedway and a spot in the championship race when things quickly changed.
It started with the shredding of teammate Joey Logano’s tire on Lap 493. It ended with Keselowski being shoved out of the lead by Chase Elliott on the ensuring Lap 496 restart. And when the wrecking stopped on the frontstretch, Keselowski was credited with a fourth-place finish.
“I haven’t seen the video. I just knew I got in the corner and he [Elliott] was inside me and we had contact,” Keselowski said. “I haven’t seen any more of that to really have any clarity to it. The track is just real slick on the restarts for everybody, you saw that.
“It takes about five laps for anyone to get going or more, especially the leader, but there was a lot of hard fighting here because it’s a short track. That’s what short tracks are kind of about is rooting and gauging. You try not to take anybody out, but you’ve got to sometimes rub a little bit.”
Having worked his way into the lead on Lap 471, Keselowski was driving away when Logano spun and brought the caution out with seven laps to go of the scheduled 500. Logano did not pit when he suffered a heavy fender rub after being hit in the left rear by Kyle Busch a few laps prior.
Back under green flag conditions, Keselowski was moved wide in Turn 3 by Elliott. Even though the race saw more bumping and banging, and even a big wreck coming to the finish line, Keselowski’s opportunity at victory was gone.
It was a disappointing end for the No. 2 team, which would have locked up a spot at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a win. It also would have been a season sweep at Martinsville.
“We had a really great Alliance Truck Parts Ford,” Keselowski said. “We were able to lead laps and win the two stages and bring home a solid finish and that’s something to be proud of.”
Keselowski led 108 laps and won both the first and second stages of the First Data 500. Those were his seventh and eighth stage wins this season.