05/24 23:57 CDT Keselowski wins 600 to extend Johnson's losing streak
Keselowski wins 600 to extend Johnson's losing streak
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) --- Brad Keselowski, in a contract year and trying to up his
value in free agency, gave Roger Penske a victory on what should have been the
most celebrated day in motorsports but was instead just a 6-plus hour NASCAR
Keselowski extended Jimmie Johnson's losing streak to 102 races by holding off
the seven-time NASCAR champion in overtime early Monday to win the Coca-Cola
600, the longest race on the NASCAR schedule.
It was the first win for Keselowski this season, his first Coca-Cola 600
victory and the first win at this event for Ford since 2002. Keselowski
celebrated as he usually does by waving a giant American flag out his window
during his victory burnouts on the frontstretch of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
When he first got out of the car for his network interview, the silence at the
track was a downer.
"I was kind of bummed. I wanted to win the 600 my whole life and wanted to win
in front of everybody," Keselowski said. "But that's not always how it works. I
know there are fans that wish they could be in the stands."
In these unusual times of the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR is still adapting in
its return to racing a full week ago. This event was its third Cup race in
seven days --- all without spectators --- and limited media access.
Wearing a white Team Penske face mask, Keselowski went to the empty infield
media center for a post-race news conference over Zoom. Unable to hear the
questions, he shouted into the computer.
"Can you talk really loud?" he yelled. "My ears are ringing."
The Sunday before Memorial Day is a supposed to be a smorgasbord of motorsports
that begins with Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the
Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race on the calendar.
The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out the first part of F1's schedule and,
like IndyCar, it is still waiting to start its season. Penske, the new owner of
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has moved the Indy 500. It marks the first time
since 1946 the 500 is not being run on Memorial Day weekend.
NASCAR was able to resume its season under a health plan approved by state
officials that allowed the sport to resume after a 10-week hiatus. NASCAR ran
three events in South Carolina, and the Coca-Cola 600 kicks off four
consecutive days of racing at Charlotte.
A rain delay of nearly 90 minutes during the first stage of the race pushed the
finish into Monday, but it still ended up just fine for Penske, the owner of
Keselowski's car who should have spent Sunday celebrating his first Indy 500 as
owner of the national landmark.
"This is one of the biggest days for him," Keselowski said. "Winning never
hurts. This is my 30th win and I think I have another 30 in me."
Johnson finished second, one spot ahead of devastated Hendrick Motorsports
teammate Chase Elliott, as Chevrolet is still seeking its first win in the
three Cup races since NASCAR resumed.
Elliott had a comfortable lead and was coasting to the win when Hendrick
Motorsports teammate William Byron spun with a tire problem.
"That's got to be a joke," Elliott said over his radio.
Elliott was wrecked by Kyle Busch trying to race for the win at Darlington
Raceway on Wednesday night. It led to Elliott flipping Busch the bird at
This time, he was briefly consoled by Busch as he climbed from his car on pit
road. But he was openly disappointed for the second time in four days.
"I was a lap-and-a-half away from winning the 600," Elliott said. "This week
has been pretty unfortunate, we have had some tough losses."
His race was snatched from Elliott by the caution for Byron and then the pit
decisions that followed.
Elliott pitted and Keselowski led a train of eight cars that stayed on the
track. He lined up in front of Alex Bowman on the inside line with Johnson ---
retiring from Cup racing at the end of the season --- on the bottom ahead of
Keselowski teammate Ryan Blaney.
Keselowski got the push to get into clean air and denied Johnson a victory.
"I feel like I have thrown this race away a handful of times and I thought we
were going to lose it today," Keselowski said. "I have lost it the way Chase
lost it and it really stinks. And today we finally won it that way."