By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
The radical playoff chaos enveloped the closing laps of Sunday night’s Xfinity 500 from Martinsville Speedway, the final race determining the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Cup Series.
And with the goal firmly in place, Brad Keselowski was ready to fight.
And fight he did. Following a speeding penalty on pit road with 97 laps remaining, Keselowski drove his No. 2 Team Penske Ford from the rear of the lead-lap field to the top five, finishing fourth on the night.
In doing so, Keselowski beat Kevin Harvick for the final transfer spot into the Championship 4. The final laps saw Keselowski thinking both points and positions.
“I thought I was part racecar driver, part mathematician,” Keselowski joked. “I can only imagine what my wife was feeling.”
Indeed, the pressure was real in the No. 2 camp. With one two points separating Keselowski, Harvick and Denny Hamlin for the two final spots in the Championship 4, every position meant the world.
With one point back of Keselowski, the struggling No. 4 of Harvick attempted to spin Kyle Busch in the final corner for the one point. Spinning himself, the incident gave Keselowski the green light for the Championship 4, making it for the first time since 2017.
“I’m really happy for Team Penske to have two cars in,” he said, as he joins teammate Joey Logano. “Just a hard-fought day. Got a speeding penalty there with like 70-80 to go and I’m not sure how. The box where I got the speeding penalty is where my car was pitted, so I don’t know. I’ll have to figure that one out later, but just really thankful to be going to the Championship 4.”
With points difficult to calculate whilst driving, Keselowski could only pass cars. And pass cars. And pass more cars.
“There was nothing I could do other than just pass as many cars as I could and look forward,” he said. “The last two runs, I don’t know if we were the best car, but we were close to it. Credit to [crew chief] Jeremy Bullins and the team. They just kept adjusting on it at the end and we got good when it counted. It was just frustrating because that pit road penalty I did not see it coming, to be honest with you.”
With four wins on the season, Keselowski is the third-highest earner of points through 35 races in 2020. Additionally, his 12 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes resemble those of his championship competitors.
Keselowski will be eying his second Cup title, previously holding the trophy in 2012.
“I know we’ve got great cars on these short tracks and one-mile tracks,” he said. “At the end of the race we might have had the best car. It was probably pretty close between Chase and I. If we bring this kind of an effort at the end of the race at Phoenix, we’ve got a great shot at it.”