Keselowski close but no cigar, still pleased with pace at Atlanta

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Keselowski close but no cigar, still pleased with pace at Atlanta


Keselowski close but no cigar, still pleased with pace at Atlanta


Brad Keselowski came the closest he’s been in nearly two years of winning a NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway until Joey Logano left him in the dust on the last lap.

And yet, the former series champion was pretty content with how it all went down afterward. Keselowski led 47 laps, including 29 of the last 30, en route to earning his first top-five finish of the season.

“Disappointed is a strong word,” Keselowski said. “I’m really proud of how we ran. Glad we’re leading laps. Glad we’re in position to win races. We’re controlling the things we can control.

“I’m disappointed that Joey got such a great run; I’ve got to take a look and see how…he pulled that off. But I’m not disappointed with my team.”

Keselowski and Logano engaged in a back-and-forth battle over the last 15 laps. After initially getting clear of the field with 29 laps to go, the No. 6 controlled the lanes while Logano kept trying to find a run, eventually getting a nose under Keselowski off Turn 2 with 13 laps to go. It pulled the lanes back even, and both fought for the edge.

The two stayed side-by-side until Keselowski got clear of the field again with five laps to go. But again, the run didn’t last. Coming to the white flag, Keselowski ran clear in the lead, Christopher Bell with Logano still charging on the bottom. Logano’s run came into Turns 1 and 2, and he jumped to the outside and around Keselowski.

The RFK driver had yet to see a replay when dissecting the end of the race but didn’t feel he could have done anything differently. It wasn’t that he thought he lost the race, but Logano won it on a great move. The only other move Keselowski had in his arsenal wasn’t one he wanted to pull.

“He made a great move. He deserves credit for it,” he said. “I don’t really think there was any way I was going to stop that without wrecking us all.”

Former teammates at Team Penske, Keselowski and Logano were not unfamiliar with each others’ superspeedway prowess. But they were just two of the drivers in the main pack who put on a show as the race wound down, as the third and final stage saw the field run side-by-side more than it had in the first two stages — still a much cleaner race than the ones seen Saturday.

“This is actually one of the best races here, I think, you’re ever going to see,” Keselowski said. “I was really impressed that we were able to run the last 40, 50-something laps without everybody just wrecking each other.

“I think it was a good mix of drivers up front that ran smart races and showed you can run side by side and do this without wrecking each other. It really is the drivers that make the decision. I ran next to Joey, I think side-by-side, for 10 to 20 laps, and we were racing really hard, but we didn’t wreck each other. Tyler (Reddick) was behind me and gave great pushes, and he didn’t get crazy on them and cause us all to wreck. I really appreciate that.”

In addition to the laps led and the runner-up finish, Keselowski earned points in both stages. While it’s his first top-five finish of the season, Atlanta now makes two top-10 finishes, and he is fifth in the championship standings after five races.

“It was a good day; really solid,” Keselowski said. “I’m proud of our team, we’re just continuing to improve, and you need days like this. You just wish they were wins, but we were right there.

“It just didn’t come together there at the end. Joey got such a huge run down the frontstretch there was nothing I could do to stop it — other than wreck all of us — and that wasn’t going to do us any favors. Good day for our team overall; just one spot short.”

Including Atlanta, it’s been the best four weeks Keselowski could ask for. There is still speed to be found in his No. 6 Ford and execution that could be better, but the confidence is growing inside his team as they’ve made gains in the right direction from where they were this time a year ago.

“This is exactly the type of days we need,” Keselowski said. “Days where we score lots of points, we show people we can win races and we build our program.”