Brad Keselowski felt it was “unavoidable contact” between him and Jimmie Johnson with 19 laps to go at Kentucky Speedway.
Johnson sat third and lined up on the inside lane behind Ryan Blaney. Keselowski was fifth and in the row behind Johnson. On the restart, Johnson initially got a good run, but so did Keselowski, who moved to his inside. As the two moved left onto the apron, they made contact with Keselowski spinning Johnson from the left rear.
“All race long, not just that restart, the third and fourth-place guys while they’re pushing if you don’t push, your lane doesn’t go, but then the car behind you gets a huge run on you, and that makes it tough,” explained Keselowski. “That’s what happened to me on the last restart. I was fourth, and I was pushing Kevin [Harvick], and Cole [Custer] used his run to get to the outside and ultimately, win the race. I didn’t block it because it was just too much of a run, pretty similar to what happened with Jimmie is I had a huge from fifth. They took off. They launched together, the inside lane Blaney and Jimmie, and they stretched, and then they started to slow down, and as they slowed down, I just had a huge run, and I made a move to the inside.
“I was turning down towards the grass. I might have had a foot or two, but I couldn’t go much lower, and I don’t know if he was trying to turn down to block me or if he was trying to turn down to get underneath Blaney, but he turned down, and I was too far forward. There was kind of unavoidable contact at that time. I don’t know. I hate that it ruined his day. I don’t really necessarily know what to do different.”
Keselowski, who won the second stage in the Quaker State 400, went on to finish ninth after two additional restarts. He led 34 laps.
“If I stayed in line and just pushed him, I was going to get gobbled like I did on the last restart, so just part of the mayhem with these restarts,” Keselowski continued. “I hate that we had control of the race and just didn’t have enough speed to keep it because I feel like we could have brought this race home. We had a really good car on restarts, but we just didn’t have the speed to keep the lead and fell back to third there and got ate up on the restart.
“That part is kind of a bummer, but it was just restart mayhem. Double-file restarts. Everybody knows that the only real chance you have to pass is on a restart, and it’s a give-and-take fest.”
Johnson spent the second half of the race at Kentucky climbing into contention. He finished eighth in the second stage and ran as high as third. Overall, Johnson had an average running position of 11th in his return to competition after missing last weekend because of a positive COVID-19 test.