September 12, 2020
By Holly Cain
NASCAR Wire Service
Brad Keselowski made good on a confident Babe Ruth-like prediction earlier this week when he said he expected to dominate and win Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Playoff race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
Dominate, he did. After leading a race best 192 of the 400 laps at the three-quarter mile track, Keselowski scored an impressive 2.568-second victory over Martin Truex Jr. to guarantee his position in the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. It’s Keselowski’s fourth win of the season in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford and 34th career victory.
Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano was third, followed by Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott. Kyle Busch finished sixth, followed by championship points leader Kevin Harvick. Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer rounded out a top 10 sweep of current Playoff-eligible drivers. Although not a victory for the reigning series champion Busch, his top-10 finish was an achievement considering he started last in the field after failing pre-race inspection twice.
Denny Hamlin, who finished 12th, still earned enough points to secure a spot in the next round of the Playoffs. He led 45 laps and won Stage 1, but he was called for speeding on pit road and had to play catch up the rest of the night after serving the penalty.
The only caution flags Saturday were for scheduled slowdowns – a competition caution and two stage breaks. And there were 20 lead changes among nine drivers.
“It was a great race for us and the two-team,” the 2012 series champion Keselowski said, noting he drove the same car Saturday as he used to win at New Hampshire earlier this summer. “I wanted to do a really cool burnout with it, but I want this car for [the championship race] Phoenix.”
“I’m really pumped. I don’t want to look too far ahead. The next round is going to be really difficult, but still, I’m really pumped about this performance and the way we’ve run on short tracks.”
“If we can get to Phoenix, we’re going to be really good,” Keselowski promised, not wanting to look too far ahead despite his impressive performance Saturday.
While Keselowski, 34, was clearly the class of the field, leading nearly four times as many laps as any other driver, Logano, Truex and Dillon did their best to keep him honest.
Dillon’s 55 laps led was the most he has ever led in a single race in his seven-year fulltime NASCAR Cup Series career. He missed pit road while coming to the pits for service late in the race – the only hiccup on his night. But his team recovered and it turned out to be of minimal consequence for an organization that has mightily impressed the first two weeks of the Playoffs.
Dillon finished runner-up to Harvick in last week’s Playoff opener at Darlington and now has a second top five heading to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway next week for the final race in this opening stage of the Playoffs.
“To come from the back [after the speeding penalty] and finish second in Stage 2 was just so awesome,” said Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“This race team is on fire right now and showing up when it matters.”
Dillon, who won at Texas Motor Speedway this summer, has positioned himself to a much better Playoff run than many may have anticipated heading to the Bristol cutoff race next week.
On the other side, Truex kept up his consistent pace. His third-place run was his ninth top-five finish in the last 10 races,
Only the top 12 drivers among the 16 Playoff eligible will continue to contend for the season title following that Bristol race.
After Richmond, the four drivers below that top-12 line include William Byron (-3 points), Cole Custer (-8 points), Matt DiBenedetto (-25 points) and Keselowski’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney (-27 points).
The series moves to Bristol for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race next Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NASCAR Cup Series Race – 63rd Annual Federated Auto Parts 400
Saturday, September 12, 2020
1. (9) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 400.
2. (14) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 400.
3. (2) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 400.
4. (3) Austin Dillon (P), Chevrolet, 400.
5. (12) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 400.
6. (6) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 400.
7. (1) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 400.
8. (10) Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 400.
9. (4) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 400.
10. (11) Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 400.
11. (22) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 400.
12. (7) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 399.
13. (8) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 399.
14. (13) Cole Custer # (P), Ford, 399.
15. (26) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 399.
16. (19) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 399.
17. (16) Matt DiBenedetto (P), Ford, 399.
18. (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 398.
19. (15) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 398.
20. (24) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 398.
21. (5) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 398.
22. (17) Erik Jones, Toyota, 398.
23. (21) Ryan Newman, Ford, 397.
24. (25) Chris Buescher, Ford, 397.
25. (20) Michael McDowell, Ford, 397.
26. (30) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 397.
27. (34) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 396.
28. (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 396.
29. (28) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 396.
30. (31) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 396.
31. (18) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 395.
32. (33) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 390.
33. (29) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 390.
34. (32) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 388.
35. (36) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 387.
36. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 387.
37. (38) James Davison, Chevrolet, 385.
38. (37) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Rear Hub, 100.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 101.868 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 56 Mins, 42 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.568 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: 19 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Harvick (P) 1-20;A. Dillon (P) 21-33;B. Poole # 34;A. Dillon (P) 35-38;D. Hamlin (P) 39-83;A. Dillon (P) 84;J. Logano (P) 85-120;B. Keselowski (P) 121-162;K. Harvick (P) 163-181;A. Dillon (P) 182-217;B. Keselowski (P) 218-293;C. Elliott (P) 294-295;K. Busch (P) 296-307;J. Logano (P) 308-316;B. Keselowski (P) 317-342;K. Busch (P) 343-346;K. Harvick (P) 347-348;K. Busch (P) 349-351;A. Dillon (P) 352;B. Keselowski (P) 353-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Brad Keselowski (P) 4 times for 192 laps; Austin Dillon (P) 5 times for 55 laps; Joey Logano (P) 2 times for 45 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 45 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 41 laps; Kurt Busch (P) 2 times for 15 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 1 time for 4 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Brennan Poole # 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,3,22,2,4,88,19,9,47,14
Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,3,19,22,9,18,1,10,42,4