NASCAR: Brad Keselowski wins at Atlanta after penalty derails Kevin Harvick

Brad Keselowski celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Brad Keselowski celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. AP

Brad Keselowski, taking advantage of a pit-road error by a dominant Kevin Harvick, won Sunday’s Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Keselowski, who overcame an error of his own team’s on pit road earlier in the race, passed Kyle Larson for the lead with seven laps to go to win at Atlanta for the first time.

Pole-winner Harvick won the first two stages of the race and appeared to be headed for victory when he was caught for speeding on pit road with 11 laps remaining. That bumped Harvick to the rear of the field on the lead lap and he would eventually finish ninth.

Larson was second, with Matt Kenseth third, Kasey Kahne fourth and Chase Elliott fifth.

Keselowski recovered after having to return to pit road after two of his lug nuts weren’t tightened properly during an earlier stop.

Race breakdown

Stage 1: Kevin Harvick started on the pole and maintained that lead at the end of the first stage, leading 82 laps of the 85-lap stage. He was followed by Brad Keselowki, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano in the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started 12th, went two laps down after he pitted due to a flat tire. Earnhardt also had a speeding penalty on pit road earlier, sending him to the rear of the field.

Stage 2: Harvick won the second stage, despite giving up the lead for 12 laps to Keselowski, who pitted early during the stage and went ahead when Harvick went in.

Stage 3: Harvick continued to be dominant, before he was caught speeding on pit road with 11 laps to go. That handed the race to Keselowski.

Three who mattered

Brad Keselowski: Race winner had his own pit-road problems (loose lug nuts), but they happened early enough to overcome.

Kyle Larson: Finishes second after also having a competitive car in the Daytona 500.

Kevin Harvick: Took full blame for a pit-road speeding penalty that cost his No. 4 Ford team the race.

Worth noting

▪ Harvick wasn’t alone in having speeding problems on pit road. His was one of 13 such penalties. Elliott, who had one of his own, said he thought he knew what the problem was for so many speeding penalties to be called, but wouldn’t say what it is. Jimmie Johnson, who finished 19th and a lap down, had two of them.

▪ That 19th-place finish ended a two-race winning streak at Atlanta for Johnson.

▪ Stu Grant, Goodyear Racing’s general manager for worldwide racing, said Sunday that a detailed analysis revealed that the tires on Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota were inflated when he spun and crashed during last week’s Daytona 500. Busch blamed the tires for the wreck, saying they were not holding air.

“Kyle is a professional race car driver and he spun for some reason and he felt something,” Grant said. “But there was nothing wrong with tires that caused him to spin.”

▪ Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Marcus Smith said Sunday he didn’t know how long it might take to decide which SMI track would lose a race if SMI’s Las Vegas Motor Speedway adds a second race in the fall of 2018.

“You never know, the schedule is something we’re always working on,” Smith said Sunday. There are a lot of moving parts; a lot of dominoes have to fall into place.”

They said it

“I feel like I’m snake-bit at this place, but it’s my own doing.” – Harvick


Three tweets from Sunday’s race:

Next race

Kobalt 400

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

When: 3:30 p.m., Sunday.

TV: Fox.

Radio: Performance Racing Network.