Brad Keselowski said this week that his team’s “expectations going into Richmond are really high.” He showed what he meant Saturday night, winning the Cup playoff race at Richmond Raceway to move into the second round.
Keselowski had reason to look forward to this race. He was in the same car that he won with at New Hampshire in August, a race he dominated.
“Man, this thing was awesome,” Keselowski told NBCSN after his fourth win of the season.
Keselowski said he wants this car for the championship finale in Phoenix.
Keselowski’s Ford was too strong for others to overcome with various pit strategies in the middle race of the opening round of the playoffs. He led 192 of the 400 laps, including the final 48.
“We knew this was gonna be a really big pit strategy race, but we had the speed, we had the strategy,” Keselowski said. “This team today did it all.”
Keselowski joins Kevin Harvick in the second round of the playoffs. Harvick advanced with last week’s Southern 500 win.
Keselowski’s win came a few hours after Team Penske teammate Will Power won the NTT IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second despite missing pit road during a green-flag stop in the first half of the race. Joey Logano placed third. Austin Dillon was fourth despite a pit road speeding penalty and missing pit road with less than 70 laps to go. Chase Elliott completed the top five.
Clint Bowyer holds the final transfer spot to the second round going into next weekend’s cutoff race at Bristol. He is three points ahead of William Byron and eight points ahead of Cole Custer. Matt DiBenedetto trails Bowyer by 25 points. Ryan Blaney trails Bowyer by 27 points.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin
STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Dillon followed his runner-up finish at Darlington with a fourth-place finish at Richmond. This is the first time in his career he’s scored back-to-back top-five finishes. … Runner-up Martin Truex Jr. has finished in the top four in nine of the last 10 races. … Alex Bowman placed ninth, marking his fourth consecutive race he’s finished in the top 10, a career high. … Denny Hamlin secured a spot in the second round on points with his 12th-place finish.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Blaney finished 19th. He’s never finished better than 17th in nine Richmond starts. … Matt DiBenedetto struggled all race and finished 17th.
NOTABLE: The only cautions were for the competition caution and the two stage breaks.
NEXT RACE: The series races Sept. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) in the final race of the first round. This race will cut the playoff field from 16 to 12 drivers.