Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – KANSAS CITY, KS – Brad Keselowski thought his Playoff run would continue when he came to pit road for fresh tires before the first of two overtimes in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Keselowski would have been fine, had a wreck out of Turn 4 in the first overtime not caused a caution with eventual race winner Denny Hamlin less than a car-length from the white flag and an official race.
Keselowski restarted 13th for the second overtime but got bottled up on in the middle of the pack, brushed the backstretch wall on the final lap and faded to 19th at the finish. Chase Elliott, who restarted third and finished second, edged Keselowski for the final berth in the Round of 8 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by a scant three points.
“We didn’t make it,” Keselowski said succinctly after the race. “I pushed as hard as I knew how and didn’t quite do good enough on the last restart, and that was it.
“We clawed as hard as we could, and there were times it looked like we were going to be fine and times it didn’t. In the end it didn’t work out… I needed to get up to the top of the track on the last restart. I couldn’t get up. I got sandwiched. Somebody went three-wide and got me in the middle of (Turn) 4—just all bad.”
Despite three wins this season, Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, won’t be eligible for a second title this year.
“Yeah, I did think we were OK (after the pit stop),” said Keselowski, who has a single-minded purpose after his elimination.
“Go win Martinsville,” Keselowski said.
STAGE POINTS HELP JOEY LOGANO SECURE POSITION IN ROUND OF 8
Thanks to a brilliant pit call by crew chief Todd Gordon—staying out on old tires in the first stage of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Joey Logano won the first stage of the race and collected 10 points for his effort.
In the second stage, he earned four points for a seventh-place finish—and put them to good use after contact from Ty Dillon’s Chevrolet sent him spinning through the infield grass near the end of the first lap of overtime.
Logano finished 17th, but buoyed by the stage points, he reached the Round of 8 in the Playoffs with nine points to spare over Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who was the first driver eliminated.
“Today, whew, we got that stage win which was great, and that’s a (Playoff) point that will continue on, so that is a big deal,” Logano said. “We needed every point we could, and it looked like we were in a good spot. Next thing you know they are wrecking on the outside and I get hit and I’m going through the grass.
“I felt comfortable before that, but the next thing you know—I am watching it here on the replay for the first time—I didn’t hit anything so I got lucky for sure. I’ve been lucky a few times. We were able to finish Talladega, and I parked the thing and there was a hole in the radiator.
“It was hard-fought and blue-collar round for sure. We just have to smooth it out a little bit. We need to not have as much carnage out there and finish some of these things. On to the next round. We get to reset, thank God. We will fight from there.”
WILLIAM BYRON’S STRONG EFFORT AT KANSAS FALLS SHORT
For most of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, William Byron kept his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in or near the top five.
Byron finished fifth, but a top five wasn’t good enough. Realistically, the 21-year-old sophomore driver needed a victory to advance to the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Byron finished the Round of 12 in 10th place, 16 points behind teammate Chase Elliott, who edged Brad Keselowski for the final berth in the next-to-last round.
“Yeah, it’s just a bummer,” Byron said. “But we had a great run today, and we can take pride in that, for sure. We had a great car, one of the best cars we’ve had on a 1.5-mile track. It was fun, but we just needed to win, and we couldn’t do that.
“But it is what it is. It was a great day for us overall. We’ll move on to the next couple of weeks and keep fighting. If we can go out and win, that’s all that really matters now.”
Byron is still looking for his first victory at the Cup level.