Brad Keselowski battles through illness for Atlanta victory
Brad Keselowski surged to victory Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, fighting through a weekend illness to hold off Martin Truex Jr. at the finish.
Keselowski’s Team Penske No. 2 Ford led 33 of 325 laps in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, helping Keselowski clinch a postseason berth just two races into the 2019 campaign. His first win of the season was his second at the 1.54-mile Georgia track and the 28th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
Keselowski competed with Xfinity Series regular Austin Cindric on standby in case he was too ill to go the distance. Cindric split time with Keselowski in Saturday’s final practice.
A fast-closing Truex secured second place in the Joe Gibbs Racing N0. 19 Toyota, crossing the finish line just .218 seconds behind the race winner. Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five.
Kyle Larson led a race-high 142 laps in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet before a pit-road speeding penalty with 100 laps left derailed his hopes. Larson placed 12th and his winless streak stretched to 48 races.
The event was the first for the 2019 rules package at an intermediate-sized track. Cars featured larger spoilers and splitters and other aero devices to increase downforce, plus a tapered spacer designed to reduce engine horsepower to a target of 550. Closer, intense racing was commonplace on restarts, but the field sorted out in longer green-flag runs with the challenge of fighting for grip on Atlanta’s well-worn asphalt.
Kyle Busch, making his 500th premier-series start, had his victory hopes hampered by a flat right-rear tire on his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota on Lap 221. He started from the rear of the field after his primary car crashed in Saturday practice, then settled for sixth place after his issue in the final stage.
Pole-starter Aric Almirola led 36 laps early, but a pit-road penalty for speeding during the first stage break dropped him down in the running order. He rallied to finish eighth in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford.
The series’ next event is scheduled for next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the third race of the Monster Energy Series season.
This story will be updated.
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