BROOKLYN, Mich. - Brad Keselowski led 41 laps and won the opening stage but wound up with a fourth place finish as all three Mustangs in the field finished in the top-10 of the Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway Saturday afternoon.
Keselowski came home behind race winner Denny Hamlin (Toyota) who won by .001-seconds over William Byron (Chevy) and Elliott Sadler (Chevy).
The day started ominously for Keselowski who started on the outside of row one at his home track but made contact with pole sitter Kyle Busch on the opening lap of the race. Busch, who slid up to block a Keselowski pass attempt and got hooked around, was spent spinning through the MIS infield grass and suffering damage to his 18 car.
Keselowski suffered less damage and was able to open up a lead of over two-seconds after the ensuing restart, cruising all the way to the Stage 1 win. The 22 ran as high as second with just 14 to go before a series of late-race cautions brought back-to-back restarts which shuffled the Discount Tire Mustang back to fourth.
Ryan Reed brought his Roush Fenway Racing Mustang home in eighth and Cole Custer piloted his Stewart-Haas Racing Mustang to 10th. Reed leaves Michigan sixth in the driver standings while Custer is ninth. Bubba Wallace is the top-Ford in fourth.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series breaks away from the Cup Series and heads to Iowa Speedway for a stand-alone Saturday night (June 24) race next weekend. The race will air at 8:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
FORD FINISHING RESULTS:
4th - Brad Keselowski
8th - Ryan Reed
10th - Cole Custer
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang) -- Finished 4th
“Good race. Denny was the class of the field there at the end. I just couldn’t get the back underneath the Discount Tire Ford. That was a bummer. The next to last restart, I thought that I had the 9 cleared but he just got a big pull. I don’t know if he got a push from behind and got up beside me and pulled a side-draft, and then Denny got behind. I would have been okay if it was just him, but the two of them together, I couldn’t defend it. It was good run all-and-all. A lot to be proud of.”
DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A SHOT AT THE END? “I needed somebody to make a mistake in front of me and that didn’t happen. I was just too loose.”
THE FIRST LAP CONTACT WITH KYLE BUSCH. WERE YOU SURPRISED HE CAME UP IN FRONT OF YOU? “I don’t think he knew I was there. I lifted the best I could, I guess I just didn’t do a good enough job lifting. I was already pulling up alongside of him. I tried to lift but I guess we could have done a better job. I had a big run and tried to go to the bottom and tried to go to the top. There was only so many places to go on the race track.”
WAS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY ON THE LAST TWO RESTARTS? “I tore my car up on the start of the race and had a little damage that wasn’t making it any faster. That was a bummer for everybody. I was just too loose. I couldn’t really make anything happen. We all gave it our best. We are taking a pretty big step forward the last couple of weeks and I am proud about that.”
COLE CUSTER (No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang) -- Finished 10th
“I thought we were solid. We fought really loose the whole race, especially the restarts. We couldn’t get going great but we fought all day and had a good strategy I felt like. We were able to stay up there. We were missing a little bit. Maybe if we had a lead with three to go we could have held them off but we were just a little bit off. I think we needed a little bit more. We just missed it a bit.”
RYAN REED (No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang) -- Finished 8th
“Given the fact that we started 20th I didn’t think that was too bad. We had to work on it. We felt we had a good car yesterday but today was a lot different conditions. I am proud of the way we battled. We struggled on restarts and I had to get what I could on restarts and go to battle after that. It was a decent showing for the Ford Mustang and another top-10. If we can be no worse than top-10 each week we will be right where we want to be.”
YOU ARE ON STANDBY DUTY FOR TREVOR BAYNE THIS WEEKEND WITH HIS WIFE READY TO GIVE BIRTH ANY DAY NOW. WHAT HAS THAT PROCESS BEEN LIKE? “The process hasn’t been anything too crazy. I got fitted in the car and obviously it isn’t perfect but got as close as we can with Trevor’s seat. From there I got to make three laps in his Cup car on Friday afternoon which is really cool. They get around here pretty fast. It was a lot of fun and I appreciate those guys letting me do it. I will be around here tomorrow hanging out. It is a lot better hanging out on Sunday’s if you have a good or decent run on Saturday. But yeah, I will be here ready to go, sitting on the pit box. It is good for me because I learn a lot when I sit up there with the crew chief and watch the race from there.”