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NASCAR Cup Series: Keselowski snaps career-long winless streak in Darlington

Written by Sean McKean

Credit - Meg Oliphant / Getty Images

On Mothers' Day evening, it was RFK's Brad Keselowski who snuck through the collisions up front to win the Goodyear 400 at Darlington, South Carolina. This is Keselowski's first win as an owner driver and his first in 110 races.

As it unfolded

From pole position, Talladega winner Tyler Reddick shot out into the lead, though he wasn’t uncontested. Until the first pit cycle, he was followed closely by both Brad Keselowski and two-time winner this season Kyle Larson.

On lap 36, the pit stops began with William Byron and Ty Gibbs. Though it originally looked like they would remain behind the top four ahead, slow stops by them allowed Ty Gibbs to take the lead ahead of Byron. However, Larson got by his Hendrick teammate quickly as well as Ty Gibbs.

The 2021 champion cruised to his seventh stage win of the season. Gibbs rounded out in second with Keselowski in a distant third.

The second stage began just as cleanly as the first. Although Keselowski got out of the pits first, Reddick got the jump over him on the restart and decisively led proceedings. Just before the green flag pit stop cycles, however, John Hunter Nemechek went for a spin coming off turn four on lap 120, which brought out the caution.

On the next restart, the first crash of the race occurred. Coming off turn two, William Byron made a three-wide move that put Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex into the wall, getting minor taps from Chris Buescher and Kyle Larson. Though the latter three continued on fine, Blaney retired from the race – not before showing his frustration with Byron under caution by giving him a bump.

The ensuing restart on lap 135 was much cleaner but contained more of the same, with Reddick leading the way. He led uncontested until he met lap traffic, thus allowing Ty Gibbs to catch up to him

Though the Joe Gibbs Racing driver closed in, he couldn’t get the pass done before the next caution came out on lap 163. Spire’s Zane Smith – having dealt with a poor-handling car – spun and hit the inside wall off turn four. The 2022 NASCAR Truck series champion went out of the race following this crash.

Despite challenges from Keselowski on the restart with 15 laps to go in the stage, it wasn’t enough to get by Reddick, who came out with the stage win. Keselowski and Gibbs followed behind.

As the final stage began, it was clear it would be more of the same from Reddick – still dominating proceedings. However, right before the pit cycles on lap 226, Brad Keselowski took the lead from the 23XI driver as he approached traffic. Although Ty Gibbs briefly took the lead from pitting early, Keselowski swiftly took it back.

But with 40 laps to go, the race’s complexity changed. Going into turn three, Kyle Larson cut a left-rear tire and went into the wall. He later retired due to the damage.

The crash that ended Kyle Larson's day | Credit - Alejandro Alvarez / NASCAR Digital Media

During the pit stops, Keselowski had a quick stop, but Reddick with the first pit stall had the advantage, thus taking the lead over.

On the restart with 35 to go, Reddick and Keselowski remained side by side for eight laps straight, all the while Chris Buescher stayed behind to help his teammate and team owner. However, the two got together coming off turn four, which allowed Buescher to cruise through to take the lead.

As the race drew closer to the end, both Reddick drew closer to the #17 car. Into turn four with nine to go, the #45 car sent one to the inside and put them both in the wall. Since they both cut a tyre, Keselowski inherited the lead. 

Keselowski kept the lead to take the victory – his first since the Talladega spring race of 2021. Ty Gibbs rallied at the end to finish second followed closely by Josh Berry in third. Denny Hamlin quietly finished fourth followed by Chase Briscoe in fifth. 

William Byron ended an eventful day in sixth. Bubba Wallace and Alex Bowman rounded out in seventh and eighth respectively. Justin Haley takes Rick Ware Racing’s first top ten at a non-superspeedway in ninth. Rounding out the top ten was Michael McDowell.

Catch the next bit of NASCAR action in North Carolina, as they head to North Wilkesboro for the All-Star race.


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