Brad Keselowski holds off Bowman in overtime, wins Digital Ally 400

by Justin Nguyen

Brad Keselowski is back in Victory Lane after holding off Alex Bowman and Erik Jones in the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer marked a Stewart-Haas Racing front row sweep. Meanwhile, eleven drivers — Aric Almirola (qualified second), Daniel Suárez (fourth), Chase Elliott (fifth), Martin Truex Jr. (sixth), Kyle Larson (eighth), Ty Dillon (fifteenth), Joey Logano (twentieth), Michael McDowell (twenty-third), Landon Cassill (twenty-fifth), and the MBM Motorsports duo of Joey Gase and Timmy Hill (thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth, respectively)  — failed pre-race inspection and started at the back.

Stage #1

As Harvick led Bowyer, Logano quickly climbed from his starting position of thirtieth, entering the top twenty after eight laps. William Byron took second from Bowyer on lap 28, followed by Keselowski doing the same a lap later for third.

By the competition caution on lap 30, Logano led the penalised drivers in sixteenth, with Elliott in fifteenth. After pit stops in which nearly everyone took two tyres, Byron became the leader for the restart. One of the exceptions, Corey LaJoie changed no tyres and jumped to sixth from thirty-first. McDowell suffered a speeding penalty on his stop.

The race resumed on lap 37. Bowyer took the lead as Byron began to fall, with Harvick reclaiming the spot on lap 49. Ten laps later, Denny Hamlin spun on the backstretch to bring out the yellow flag. On ensuing stops, Byron was penalised for his crew removing equipment from the #24 team’s pit box.

Elliott became the new leader for the lap 65 restart. With less than ten laps remaining in the stage, Harvick passed him to take first and win the stage. Behind the two were Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Larson, Kurt BuschChris Buescher, Keselowski, Bowyer, Jones, and Logano.

Stage #2

Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Busch and Harvick led the field to the start of Stage #2 on lap 87; the former led the first four laps before Harvick took over. Harvick began to increase his lead over Elliott, ballooning to over a second as the race reached the triple-digit-lap mark.

On lap 121, Truex pitted to start the cycle of green flag stops. Harvick and the other leaders pitted shortly after, promoting Bowman to the top spot until he did the same, allowing Buescher and Stenhouse to do the same. After Stenhouse pitted on lap 143, Keselowski took first. When Suárez pitted, he was hit from behind by Truex but kept the car from spinning.

Matt Tifft inherited the lead from Keselowski, while Elliott passed Harvick for second. When Tifft completed the pit cycle by doing his stop on lap 146, Elliott became the leader and took the stage victory.

Harvick finished second ahead of Jones, Bowman, Stenhouse, Buescher, Busch, Bowyer, Kyle Busch, and Larson.

Stage #3

After a strong pit stop between segments, Harvick became the leader for Stage #3 ahead of Ryan Blaney. The green flag waved on lap 168.

Behind the leader, Blaney battled with Bowman and Stenhouse for second. On lap 179, Harvick’s day took a sudden turn as he started falling off the pace, enabling Bowman to jump ahead. On pit road, the #4 team changed right-side tyres and removed a tear-off on the grille; when he returned to the race, Harvick was twenty-seventh and a lap down.

As the race neared the 200-lap mark, Busch began slicing through the top five, passing Stenhouse for second. Although Busch closed the margin as the stage progressed, it also grew as far as four seconds as they reached lapped traffic.

On lap 210, Blaney became the first green-flag pitter of the final cycle. As other stops continued, the caution came out on lap 217 for Newman’s tyre coming off and straying into the infield; he was penalised for an uncontrolled tyre violation. The top eight, who had not pitted at that point, did so under yellow; although Busch won the race off pit road ahead of Bowman, he suffered a penalty for driving through too many stalls.

Over the radio, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens shared dialogue about their comments and infraction:

With Busch’s penalty, Bowman became the leader once again, though the green flag was delayed for several laps as NASCAR attempted to organise the grid. After clarification, Bowman and Elliott led the field to the lap 228 restart.

Elliott quickly took the lead, while Tyler Reddick, running his second Cup race of the year, entered the top five. As Bowman and Elliott dueled for the lead, Blaney cut his right-rear tyre, sending debris on the track that sparked a lap 240 caution.

The race resumed on lap 245. After a brief battle between Bowman and Elliott, Stenhouse, who restarted third, stormed to the lead on the inside in turn one on the following lap. Bowman attempted to fight back, while Elliott started to drop; Busch suffered a tyre rub after making contact with Bowyer.

On lap 248, Bowman retook the lead from Stenhouse. With four laps to go, Matt DiBenedetto produced a caution when smoke started emitting from his #95 car.

Overtime

Keselowski and Jones comprised the front row for the overtime restart. After getting a jump, Keselowski pulled ahead, while Bowman fought through to take second. However, he could not catch the #2 as Keselowski drove off to his third win of 2019 and first since March.

Bowman finished second for the third consecutive race, becoming the first winless driver to accomplish the somewhat dubious feat. On Twitter, he posted:

During overtime, Jones drove down to the inside and blocked Bowyer, nearly causing the two to wreck. Jones finished third and Bowyer fifth. After the race, Bowyer briefly confronted Jones on pit road before departing.

“What are you gonna do?” Bowyer stated in a post-race interview with FS1. “Turn him right around in front of the field and hurt him? I mean, they put you in a bad situation, I lifted for him, cost me three spots right there. We should have finished second. That was dumb on his part. I guess that’s what he wants, to just go down and wreck in front of the field. I should’ve just wrecked him, I guess.”

“I think it was just racing,” Jones said in his interview. “We’re racing hard and this package really leads into a lot of blocking and a lot of protecting your position. When we’re taking the white flag, I’m not going to give up the lane to give up two, three, four spots if got the inside.”

Keselowski dedicated his victory to late NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series team owner Mike Mittler, who provided various drivers including Keselowski racing opportunities in the series.

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