SPEEDWAY, Ind. - Racing at Indianapolis was worth the wait for Brad Keselowski who collected his second straight crown jewel race win, giving Roger Penske his first Brickyard 400 victory in the process, the first for Ford since 1999.
Coming on the heels of his win at Darlington Raceway in the Southern 500 a week ago, Keselowski battled Denny Hamlin on a restart with three laps to go, using fresher tires and a little bit of his bumper to make the crucial pass en route to winning at the famed 2.5-mile track.
Keselowski was in position to use those fresher tires to track down Hamlin thanks to a gutsy call by crew-chief Paul Wolfe late in the run. That call, coupled with a caution with seven laps to go that brought a late restart paid dividends for the 2 team.
Keselowski was joined in the top-10 by Kevin Harvick (4th), Clint Bowyer (5th), Kurt Busch (6th) and Paul Menard (9th) while Bowyer and Matt Kenseth brought home stage wins in the race.
For Keselowski, it was his 26th victory in the Monster Energy Series, and it came in the regular-season finale as the NASCAR Playoffs field of 16 drivers was set. In all, seven Ford drivers are a part of the 16-driver field with Harvick leading the way as the No. 2-seed. He is joined by Keselowski, who’s back-to-back race wins vault him to the No. 4 seed. Bowyer is the 5-seed, Joey Logano is seeded 6th, Kurt Busch 7th, Ryan Blaney 9th and Aric Almirola 14th
Kyle Busch (Toyota) clinched the Regular Season Championship and will carry the 15 bonus points for that into the NASCAR Playoffs as the top-seed.
The Monster Energy Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Playoffs opener on Sept. 16 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).Ford heads into the NASCAR post-season with seven drivers among the 16-driver playoff field.
The 2018 NASCAR Playoffs being Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. (ET) on NBCSN.
MONSTER ENERGY CUP RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Brad Keselowski
2nd -- Erik Jones
3rd -- Denny Hamlin
4th -- Kevin Harvick
5th -- Clint Bowyer
6th -- Kurt Busch
7th -- Jamie McMurray
8th -- Kyle Busch
9th -- Paul Menard
10th -- Ryan Newman
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th -- Ryan Blaney
12th -- Matt Kenseth
13th -- Joey Logano
17th -- Michael McDowell
23rd -- Aric Almirola
24th -- David Ragan
34th -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
36th -- Matt DiBenedetto
VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Fusion
THOSE FINAL FEW LAPS WITH DENNY HAMLIN, THAT WAS AN OUTRIGHT DUEL. “Yeah it was. I gotta give credit where credit is due. My crew chief, Paul Wolfe, made a heck of a call to pit there late in that run and the yellow came out and we had new tires and started eighth and it was kind of like it gave me the ball. You know how that goes. I had to make a play. I knew it was going to be tough. We weren’t a dominant car by any means but Paul and everyone executed an incredible race. I just had to do my job and here I am in victory lane at the Brickyard. Man, I wish RP (Roger Penske) was here. I know he is watching at home. What a day!”
HOW ABOUT THESE FANS THAT STUCK IT OUT TO MONDAY TO SEE THIS? “Thank you very much guys. I appreciate you being here. This is the Brickyard, this is AWESOME!”
THIS IS VICTORY NUMBER 499 FOR TEAM PENSKE AND THE FIRST AT THE BRICKYARD. WE THOUGHT YOUR WIN LAST WEEK AT DARLINGTON WAS BIG, HOW BIG IS THIS? “It is incredible. Last year I lost this race almost the exact same way. To bring it home this way feels really good to make up for my mess up last year. To give Roger Penske his first Cup car win here at the Brickyard is just an incredible feeling. I am so happy for everyone at Team Penske. We were hoping it would be win 500 and the Brickyard but we don't care what number it is. It is the Brickyard! It is the first win for Discount Tire in the Cup Series which is great. They have been so good to us. This whole team, the call made today was just phenomenal. We weren’t the fastest car by far but this team never gave up on it, made the most of the strategy and executed a perfect race. That is something I am so proud of.”
YOU ARE ABOUT TO GO KISS THE BRICKS. WHAT WILL THAT BE LIKE? “A little grimy, but good. Grimy never tasted so good.”
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion
THE DAY ALMOST STARTED DISATROUS, BUT YOU RECOVERED AND LED SOME LAPS. “Disaster is a good word. It was not a smooth day by any means from start to finish, but our Jimmy John’s Ford was fast and that was the highlight of the day.”
ALL OF THE WINS THAT YOU HAVE IN THE REGULAR SEASON, NOW WE GO TO THE PLAYOFFS. YOU AND KYLE ARE AT THE TOP. WHAT’S THE STRATEGY FOR THE FINAL 10? “Win.”
YOU HAVE BIG POINTS CUSHION TO START THE PLAYOFFS, BUT WILL YOU SET A TONE OF WINNING RACES AND NOT CONCENTRATE ON THAT ADVANTAGE WITH YOUR GUYS? “They know that. We just take it one week at a time. That’s really the only way that you can approach this is to try and get the most that you can next week, regroup, and then see what you have and go for it the next week.”
DO YOU LIKE WHERE YOU’RE SITTING RIGHT NOW AND HOW YOU’RE SET UP? “I don’t think it’s a bad spot. I think we did a good job in the first 26 and now you’ve just got to do it again in 10 more.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford Fusion
DO YOU TAKE ANY SOLACE FROM RUNNING SO WELL TODAY? “Absolutely. You’ve got to use good runs like that for a confidence-booster for the Playoffs. It was a good run for us. Man, it’s a game of luck. There wasn’t really any strategy. You can’t strategize for cautions that you don’t know are gonna exist. I felt like we were definitely faster than the 11, but when he beat us out of the pits there, that position nobody passed anybody for the lead and unless they were a huge advantage on tires, and then all of a sudden the cautions come out and hand the 2 the win. That’s what’s frustrating, but that’s the nature of the beast here.”
CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THE FINAL TWO RESTARTS? “The first one wasn’t terrible. When you’re on a drag race, where you start like that where it’s flat and you have to wait until he does something, you’re behind. The only thing you could possibly do is roll up to him, which I was trying to do and as soon as you roll to him all they have to do is check and break your momentum and cause you to lift and then you’re screwed. When they’re dead straight drag races like that you’re at a disadvantage, which you should be, he’s the leader, but the problem is those guys on tires and stuff like that behind your are then able to roll to you and they’re the ones with the advantage. It really isn’t the front row, it’s the second row and even the third row sometimes.”
YOU WERE THE DOMINANT CAR WITH NO PRACTICE. DOES THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE? “I wasn’t really worried about it. In today’s day and age when you’ve got a guy like Mike and his talents with simulation and things like that, and Lee and Chris and everybody that works on that simulation setup side of what we’ve got going on, I’m not really worried about it. Nine times out of 10, all kidding aside, you start the weekend out and you change things, and you second-guess yourself and you change some more, you second-guess yourself, and by the time it’s all said and done, when you really look back at things your best runs were when you went right back to how you unloaded.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion
HOW MUCH BETTER DO YOU FEEL THIS TIME GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS THAN BEFORE? “I feel good. I feel like we’ve got fast race cars and we’ve got a chance to go up there and compete to win races and go far into the Playoffs. Just thinking about today and another lost opportunity for us. We had a car capable of challenging to win and run up front and we just keep having things pop up. Today, we had a flat right-rear tire running third getting ready to pass Blaney for second, so we keep having things go wrong and it’s unfortunate. But one of these days our luck is going to change and hopefully it starts this week at Vegas and when our luck changes, we’re gonna put our Smithfield Ford Fusion in Victory Lane. We’ve been too fast and had too good of a car lately these last couple of months to not put it all together.”
WILL IT BE A BONUS GOING TO THESE TRACKS FOR A SECOND TIME WITH JOHNNY? “I think so. We’ve run really well and the more we work together the faster I feel like our cars are showing up to the race track and we’re doing a good job of understanding each other, understanding what I want out of the race car, understanding where we need to be balance-wise. Johnny is making good adjustments and we’re bringing fast race cars to the race track. If we keep doing that, we’re gonna be fine. We’re gonna go into the Playoffs and we’re probably just gonna put our heads down and go to work like we have all year. I feel like we’re under the radar and not a lot of people have noticed how much speed we’ve had, so hopefully we surprise a lot of people starting next week.”
AT THE START OF THE YEAR A LOT OF EYES WERE ON YOU AND THE GOAL WAS TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. OUTSIDE OF WINNING, DO YOU FEEL THIS YEAR HAS GONE THE WAY YOU HOPED? “I think so. We’ve had a really good year. We’ve had fast race cars. I feel like the one thing that’s missing is just a trip to Victory Lane. We’ve run so well.
“We’ve had cars that have run up front and we’ve led races and we’ve been in contention and then we just keep having crazy things happen. Today is a perfect example. I have a car that could run in the top three or top five and then have a flat right-rear tire right before the end of stage two. Those things just eventually they’re not gonna happen and eventually we’re gonna have good fortune go our way and it will show – the speed and everything that we have will all come together hopefully at the right time and we’ll go on a tear.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 BODYARMOR Ford Fusion
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE LAST PIT STOP? “We were running fourth or fifth there and green flag stops came and I missed my box. I went to the wrong box. I went to the 22 box like I was in the XFINITY race and missed mine. The bad thing was they were both set up the exact same in each race. The 12 was before the 22, so I had to come around the 12 in the XFINITY race and I just had a brain fart and cost us a bunch of time. That was dumb on my part, but I thought we had a fourth or fifth-place car today, and you never know how it would have played out at the end. It stinks, but it’s cool that Penske got one car to win here. That’s cool for that team, but we’ll put all this behind us and go to Vegas. That should be a pretty good track for us.”
HOW ARE YOU ON SPEED GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS? DO YOU HAVE A REALISTIC CHANCE? “We’d like to think so. A lot of circumstances kind of played into the last two wins for them. I’m not gonna lie, they’ve done a really good job to put themselves in that spot, but today I don’t think they were the best car, they just played a good strategy and got where they needed to be. Hopefully, we’re closing in on it. There’s only one way to find out and that’s next week.”
THOUGHTS ON 650 MILES OF RACING TODAY? “It’s fine. I could do it again.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion
“We just weren’t very good from the get-go. We swung at everything we could swing at and just kept shooting ourselves in the foot all day.”
THE PLAYOFFS START NOW. “Yeah. We just have to get going, that’s all. The Playoffs are about to start and hopefully we’ll do better than that.”
THE SPEED HAS BEEN COMING FOR YOU GUYS. ARE YOU IN A GOOD SPOT TO COMPETE FOR A TITLE? “As long as we’re not racing at Indy I hope so. The last couple of weeks have been all right. Today was really rough for us, so congratulations to Brad. That’s really cool. Two big races in a row. That’s badass. We were good last week, so we’ll hang our hat on that. We won’t think too much about today, hopefully.”
KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion
“We have to stick with our strengths and that is consistency. We’ve qualified well all year. We’ve had good pit strategy and we just have to make sure we don’t make any mistakes that hurt us and we lose a lot of track position. Today, we had one bad pit stop and it’s like, ‘You know what, the car is fast.’ We just have to take our time getting back up there, instead of trying to blitz through there. Sometimes when you do that you get caught up in some wrecks, so, right now, it’s the Playoffs and we’ll just work our way through and advance through the rounds.”
DO THE BIG THREE HAVE ANY BEARING WITH THINGS BEING RESET? “They’ll be strong. You can never count them out. There’s a group of us that’s from fourth to I’d say 16th. I mean, everybody that’s in the Playoffs has a chance, but those big three have bonus points that will help them advance.”
WHAT TRACK ARE YOU MOST COMFORTABLE ABOUT IN THE FIRST ROUND? “My hometown Vegas has been tough on me over the years. The Roval is gonna be terribly exciting (laughing). We’re gonna go with Richmond. I think Richmond is our strongest track in that first round. We have the best driver rating there from the spring race, we just didn’t execute to finish the race, so we’ll see how it all plays out. That first round is all new tracks for the first time.”
WHAT DO YOU WORRY MOST ABOUT? “The Roval you could say, but I think if we do our job and make sure that we execute as a team we’ll get through that.”
MATT KENSETH, No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford Fusion
“We were fairly competitive. I felt like we had a top five to seven car. It’s hard to tell exactly because we weren’t always on the same tires, but we kept putting ourselves behind with the way the cautions fell and the way we did our strategy. And then the car fell off the jack when we were running fourth or whatever. That was pretty much the end of our day.”
IS THIS SIGNS OF PROGRESS? “Yeah, we had a lot more speed in our car. This is the first truly competitive car I’ve had since I’ve been there, so that’s a positive sign.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Race for Riley Ford Fusion
"That was a good day for us. A top-20 at Indy is always a good day. I was really happy to get those last few spots at the end. We beat the cars we needed to beat to get into that top 25 in points. I'm really proud of everybody. We made good adjustments and got it good there at the end when we needed it. Happy to have a good run for John Andretti and Race for Riley. It was special to have them on the car."