Brad Keselowski said Thursday afternoon he had “really high” expectations for Richmond Raceway. Those expectations were to run up front and lead a lot of laps, and potentially win for the fourth time this season.
Consider it Keselowski calling his shot. Saturday night, Keselowski and the No. 2 team from Team Penske dominated the Federated Auto Parts 400. Keselowski led nearly half of the race’s laps (192) and won his way into the second round of the playoffs.
The performance shouldn’t have been that surprising, as Keselowski was using the same car he dominated with last month at Loudon: a car that crew chief Jeremy Bullins plans on using in the championship race should his team earn a spot there.
“It was a great race for us and the 2 team,” said Keselowski. “This is, I think, my car from Loudon, and I wanted to do a really cool burnout with it, but I want this car for Phoenix. It’s 2-for-2, and I’m real pumped. I don’t want to look too far ahead; we’ve got to get there.
“The next round is going to be really difficult, but still, I’m really pumped about this performance and the way we run at short tracks. I felt like coming in here that we would run well, but this thing was awesome.”
Keselowski led the final 48 laps and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. He cycled out second to Austin Dillon following the final round of green-flag pit stops. But with Dillon on slightly older tires, it took Keselowski just two laps to regain the top spot.
Saturday night saw just three caution flags. One was the competition caution, and the other two were for the stage breaks. Denny Hamlin won the first stage and Keselowski the second.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second, over two seconds behind Keselowski. Joey Logano finished third and Austin Dillon fourth. Chase Elliott completed the top five.
Dillon put together one of his best races of the season, which included rebounding from a speeding penalty at the end of Stage 1. Not only did Dillon finish second in both stages, but he also led 55 laps. It was the second-most laps led by a driver Saturday night.
Kyle Busch finished sixth, Kevin Harvick seventh, and Aric Almirola eighth. Alex Bowman finished ninth, and Clint Bowyer wound up 10th.
Hamlin finished 12th on a night that included his being called for speeding at the end of Stage 1. That lost track position appeared to change the course of his race. Most of his complaints with his Camry centered on a lack of grip, but he did clinch a spot in the second round of the playoffs via points.
Kurt Busch finished 13th and Cole Custer 15th. Matt DiBenedetto finished 17th, Ryan Blaney 19th, and the lowest finishing playoff driver was William Byron in 21st.