Brad Keselowski and Team Penske snatched a win in the Coca-Cola 600 by making the right call going into overtime early Monday morning.
Staying out while running second, Keselowski took the lead as Chase Elliott led many of the front runners down pit road. The race’s final caution flew with two laps to go after William Byron spun off Turn 2, which negated the lead Elliott had over Keselowski.
On the restart, Keselowski, who took the bottom lane, cleared the field with a push from Alex Bowman. Johnson maintained the second position but was unable to challenge Keselowski for the win.
“I feel like I’ve thrown this race away a handful of times, and I felt we were going to lose it today,” said Keselowski. “I know we’ve lost it the way Chase [Elliott] lost it, and that really stinks. Today, we finally won it that way and I’m so happy for my team.
“It’s a major. It’s the Coke 600, and this leaves only one major left for me: the Daytona 500. So we’re checking them off. I’m really happy for Miller Lite. I don’t know what’s going to happen with them if they’re going to come back on the car or what, but it’s been a great 10-year ride with them, and this is their only race of 2020, and we’re in victory lane. I know they’re really happy because Miller Lite goes with Memorial Day, but I’m happy for Ford and everybody who just works their butt off at Team Penske.”
Monday was the first win of the season for Keselowski and his first in the Coca-Cola 600. It is the 31st win of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Johnson finished second, which is his best result since winning at Dover in June 2017. Johnson had also stayed out under the final caution.
Elliott fought back to finish third after restarting 11th. Ryan Blaney finished fourth on older tires while Kyle Busch finished fifth. Busch was the first car off pit road with fresh tires and restarted ninth.
Elliott had powered to the front with 38 laps to go. He took the lead from Keselowski, who had grabbed the top spot off a restart with 47 laps to go. Just days after leaving Darlington Raceway furious after being spun from second inside the final 30 laps, it appeared Elliott was going to rebound before the caution flew with two laps to go, and crew chief Alan Gustafson called him to pit road.
Rounding out the top 10 were Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick, and Christopher Bell.
Busch started from the pole and led the first 54 laps. Truex, the defending race winner, was strong again and led 87 laps. For Bell, he earned a career-best finish in the series.
Joey Logano won the third stage and finished 14th. Alex Bowman led a race-high 164 laps and won the first two stages. But on older tires having stayed out for the overtime attempt, Bowman fell from third to a 20th-place finish.
The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Denny Hamlin had a long night. Hamlin missed the start of the race as his team had to replace the ballast in his car, which fell out during the pace laps. Hamlin finished 30th, multiple laps down, and his team faces a severe penalty from NASCAR.
The 61st annual Coca-Cola 600 featured eight cautions with 20 lead changes among 11 drivers. Keselowski led three times for a total of 21 laps.
“We might not have been the fastest car today, but, wow, did we grind this one out,” said Keselowski. “The pit crew at the end, the yellow right before the last, had a blazing stop to get us upfront and put us in position. All these things just came together, and I’m tickled to death. It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest.”