Brad Keselowski made an emphatic championship statement at Richmond Raceway under the lights on Saturday, September 12, after he muscled his way to a dominating win in the Federated Auto Parts 400. All told, Keselowski led a race-high 192 of the event’s 400-scheduled laps, including the final 48, and withstood late challenges from Martin Truex Jr. teammate Joey Logano and Austin Dillon. With his fourth victory of the season and the 34th of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Keselowski has punched his ticket to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs.
The starting lineup was based on four statistical categories: current owner standings, the driver’s result from a previous Cup race, the team owner’s result from a previous Cup race, and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Cup race. With that, Kevin Harvick, coming off his win at Darlington Raceway last weekend, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Joey Logano.
Kyle Busch started at the rear of the field due to his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry failing pre-race inspection twice. The issues prior to the race made for a difficult start for Busch, who had Xfinity Series crew chief Jacob Canter atop the No. 18 pit box while crew chief Adam Stevens was serving a one-race suspension due to two loose lug nuts that were discovered to be loose on Busch’s car last weekend at Darlington. Future teammate Christopher Bell also dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments.
When the green flag waved and the second Playoff race of this season started, Harvick jumped to an early advantage followed by Logano and Austin Dillon while teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron battled for fourth place. Behind, Denny Hamlin moved up to sixth place while Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski battled for seventh place.
By the fifth lap, teammates Clint Bowyer and Cole Custer moved up to eighth and ninth while Kurt Busch dropped back to 10th place in front of Aric Almirola. Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott trailed behind outside the top 10. Shortly after, Hamlin made his way into the top five after passing Byron’s No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for a position as Byron was challenged by Keselowski for more.
Following the first 10 laps, Harvick and his No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza/Fields Ford Mustang were ahead by nearly half a second over Logano’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang with Austin Dillon’s No. 3 DOW Norkool Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE trailing by seven-tenths of a second. Five laps later, Austin Dillon muscled his way into second place with Logano dropping back to third place and Hamlin continuing to march his way to the front in fourth place.
By Lap 20, Harvick was still ahead, but he had a hard-charging Austin Dillon closing into his rear bumper. A lap later, Austin Dillon muscled his No. 3 car to the lead over Harvick with Logano trailing the two leaders by half a second. Behind, Hamlin and his No. 11 FedEx Cares Toyota Camry was in fourth place in front of Keselowski while Bowman, Byron, Bowyer, Custer, and Almirola were in the top 10. By then, 14 of the 16 Playoff contenders occupied the top-14 positions on the track. Matt DiBenedetto was back in 17th behind Erik Jones while Kyle Busch was scored in 22nd behind Ryan Newman. Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson was the highest-running non-title contender in 15th place.
Five laps later and with the leaders approaching lapped traffic, Keselowski made his way into fourth place after passing Hamlin as he started to close within the rear bumper of Harvick, who lost second place to Logano. By then, Austin Dillon extended his advantage to more than a second.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 30, Austin Dillon maintained the lead by more than a second over Logano. Behind, Harvick held off Keselowski and Hamlin to maintain a third place on the track. By then, Kyle Busch was in 21st ahead of Bell.
Under the competition caution, the leaders pitted and Austin Dillon maintained the lead following a stellar pit stop over Logano and Harvick. Following the pit stops, Blaney made another pit stop to address a loose left-front tire on his No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford Mustang.
Thirty-seven laps down, the race restarted under green and Austin Dillon maintained the lead while Hamlin made his way into second place. A lap later, Hamlin made a move beneath Dillon to take the lead while Logano went to work on Austin Dillon for second place, which he succeeded. With Hamlin, Logano, and Austin Dillon running in the top three, Harvick was in fourth followed by Keselowski, Bowman, and Byron. Behind, Bowyer was in eighth while Chase Elliott and Custer battled for ninth in front of Kurt Busch and Truex.
On Lap 43, Bubba Wallace made contact into Johnson as Johnson sustained damage to the right rear end of his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE after touching the wall. Following the incident, Johnson stepped on the gas and attempted to close back to Wallace’s rear bumper, but he wiggled entering Turn 1. Despite the on-track dispute between the two, the race remained under green as Johnson fell back to 23rd and continued to run on the track despite the damage while Wallace was in 18th.
At the front, Hamlin was leading by more than a second over Logano with Austin Dillon trailing by less than two seconds. By Lap 50, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to nearly a second over Logano. Behind, Harvick remained in fourth place, trailing by less than three seconds, while Keselowski was in fifth. By then, 13 of the 16 Playoff contenders were running in the top-13 spots. In addition, Kyle Busch and Almirola were in 15th and 16th while Blaney was all the way back in 25th.
Ten laps later, on Lap 60, Hamlin continued to stabilize his advantage by less than a second over Austin Dillon, who overtook Logano for the runner-up spot. By then, Keselowski advanced into fourth place over Harvick while Bowman, Byron, Bowyer, Elliott, and Custer battled in the top 10. Truex, Kurt Busch, and DiBenedetto were running in 11th through 13th while Kyle Busch and Almirola were in 16th and 17th. Johnson was back in 28th in between Ryan Preece and John Hunter Nemechek while Wallace was in 19th in between Newman and Erik Jones.
By Lap 68, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota cracked the top 15 after he passed DiBenedetto with Matt Kenseth next on his target. At the front, Austin Dillon cut Hamlin’s advantage to half a second while Keselowski started to battle teammate Logano for third place. In addition, Truex moved up to ninth behind Bowyer and Elliott while Byron dropped back to 14th.
With the laps in the first stage continuing to dwindle, Austin Dillon continued to trail Hamlin by half a second, though Dillon was faster than Hamlin and had Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota within his sights. Behind, Truex and his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry moved up to seventh place while Elliott, Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Custer were behind and battling for position.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 80, Hamlin was able to hold off Austin Dillon to win his eighth stage of the season. Dillon settled in second place followed by Logano, Keselowski, and Harvick while Bowman, Truex, Elliott, Stenhouse, and Bowyer were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin maintained the lead over Logano, Harvick, and Austin Dillon. Following the pit stops, however, Hamlin and Austin Dillon were sent to the rear of the field due to speeding on pit road.
The second stage started under green on Lap 89 with Logano and Harvick on the front row in front of Keselowski and Bowman. At the start, Logano maintained the lead in his No. 22 Shell/ Pennzoil Ford Mustang while teammate Keselowski made his way into second place and started to challenge his Penske teammate for the lead. Bowman then utilized the outside lane to gain spots over Harvick and Truex in third place while Kyle Busch was scored in seventh place behind Custer.
By Lap 95, Logano and Keselowski continued to battle for the lead with Logano ahead by three-tenths of a second over Keselowski’s No. 2 Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford Mustang. Behind, Truex overtook Bowman for third place while Harvick, Custer, Elliott, and Bowyer were running in fifth through eighth. Kyle Busch was in ninth ahead of Almirola while Austin Dillon and Hamlin were mired back in 23rd and 25th.
Five laps later and when the race reached the 100-lap mark, Logano stabilized his advantage to four-tenths of a second over teammate Keselowski. Meanwhile, Byron was back in 14th in between DiBenedetto and Tyler Reddick, Blaney was in 19th and Kurt Busch was in 11th. Austin Dillon moved up to 21st while Hamlin was mired back in 25th. In addition, Johnson was back in 31st place and trapped a lap behind the leaders.
On Lap 110, Keselowski cut the deficit down to a tenth of a second behind Logano. Three laps later, Keselowski gained a run beneath Logano for the lead, but Logano was able to fend off his teammate and retain the top spot on the track. Both Penske teammates were ahead by more than a second over Truex with Harvick in fourth and Elliott in fifth. Bowman was in sixth ahead of Kyle Busch, Custer, and Almirola while Kenseth was in 10th place ahead of Stenhouse, Bowyer, and Kurt Busch. By then, Austin Dillon made his way back to 14th and was pursuing for more over Bowyer and Kurt Busch.
Meanwhile. Byron slipped back to 16th behind DiBenedetto, Blaney was in 18th and Hamlin made his way back in 20th place behind Bell. Newman was in 21st ahead of teammate Chris Buescher, Erik Jones, Ty Dillon, and Bubba Wallace.
On Lap 121, Keselowski emerged with the lead for the first time after outlasting a long battle with teammate Logano while Truex started to close into both Penske teammates. Nine laps later, on Lap 130, Keselowski extended his advantage to nearly a second over teammate Logano with Truex trailing by more than a second. Harvick was in fourth place, trailing by four seconds, while Elliott made his way into the top five over teammate Bowman. Kyle Busch stabilized seventh place over Almirola, Custer, and Stenhouse while Austin Dillon moved up to 11th place.
With 12 of the 16 Playoff contenders running inside the top 15, Byron was the lowest-running contenders on the track in 22nd place with Hamlin, Blaney, and DiBenedetto running in 17th through 19th. Stenhouse was the highest-running non-title contender in ninth while Kenseth was in 13th, Bell was in 15th and Reddick was in 16th. Johnson was mired back 31st place.
On Lap 138, DiBenedetto made a pit stop. Shortly after, pit stops under green commenced with John Hunter Nemechek, Harvick, Wallace, and Johnson pitting. Ten laps later, on Lap 148, Keselowski was still at the front of the field by a second over Logano, though the leaders had yet to pit.
As the laps progressed, more lead lap cars that included Austin Dillon, Custer and Bowyer pitted. By the time Keselowski and Logano completed their pit stops under green, Harvick emerged with the lead on Lap 163. Austin Dillon was back in second place, trailing by 12 seconds, followed by Almirola, Custer and DiBenedetto while Kyle Busch was in seventh. Following his stop, Stenhouse has assessed a drive-through penalty down pit road for speeding during his service under green.
On Lap 170, Harvick maintained a seven-second advantage over Austin Dillon with Almirola, Custer, and Kyle Busch trailing in the top five. Logano and Keselowski were in sixth and seventh while Elliott was in eighth ahead of Truex. Bowyer was in 11th ahead of Bowman and Kurt Busch, Blaney was in 15th ahead of DiBenedetto, Hamlin was in 19th and Byron was mired back in 29th. Stenhouse was mired back in 27th following his pit road speeding penalty while Kenseth was the highest-running non-title contender in 10th place. In addition, Wallace was in 14th.
On Lap 182, Austin Dillon emerged with the lead after passing Harvick. By then, Keselowski moved up to the third place and in front of Almirola while Logano was in fifth ahead of Kyle Busch, Truex, and Elliott. Four laps later, Harvick made a pit stop under green. Following his stop, however, Harvick has assessed a pass-through penalty on pit road for a commitment line violation.
Another four laps later, on Lap 190, Austin Dillon stabilized his advantage to less than three seconds over Keselowski with Logano trailing by more than three seconds. In addition, Kyle Busch moved up to fourth place while Almirola, Truex, Elliott, Custer, Kurt Busch, and Kenseth were scored in the top 10. Bowman and Bowyer were in 11th and 12th while Hamlin was in 14th, two spots ahead of Blaney.
By then, Johnson was still mired back 31st while names like Erik Jones, Preece, Wallace, Corey LaJoie, Newman, Stenhouse, Byron, Ty Dillon, Buescher, Daniel Suarez, Harvick, DiBenedetto, Michael McDowell, and Nemechek were all trapped a lap or more behind the leaders.
At the halfway mark, Lap 200, Austin Dillon was still ahead by less than two seconds over Keselowski with Logano, Truex and Kyle Busch scored in the top five. Almirola stabilized sixth place over Elliott, Kurt Busch, and Custer while Kenseth was in 10th place ahead of Bowman and Bowyer. Shortly after, Blaney, running in 16th, was lapped by Austin Dillon.
By Lap 210, Keselowski cut Austin Dillon’s advantage down to half a second while Logano trailed by nearly five seconds. Truex continued to run in fourth place and was also closing in on Logano for more while Kyle Busch was in fifth place ahead of Elliott.
On Lap 218, Keselowski reassumed the lead from Austin Dillon with Truex trailing by more than four seconds after taking over third place from Logano earlier. Five laps later, Elliott passed Kyle Busch for fifth place with Almirola and Kurt Busch behind. Meanwhile, Harvick was mired back in 16th place and scored as the first car a lap behind.
With the laps in the second stage dwindling down, Keselowski stabilized his advantage to a second over Austin Dillon, but Harvick, racing on fresh tires, closed in on Keselowski and was able to un-lap himself as Preece was mired as the first car a lap behind. By then, Custer was back in 15th in between teammates Bowyer and Harvick, who continued to regain the lost spots from his commitment line violation penalty, while Bowman was in 11th behind Kenseth.
By the time the second stage concluded on Lap 235, Keselowski was able to hold off Austin Dillon to claim his seventh stage victory of the season. Austin Dillon settled in second place followed by Truex, Logano, and Elliott while Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Almirola, Kenseth, and Harvick were scored in the top 10. By then, Hamlin and Bowyer were able to remain on the lead lap while Custer was pinned a lap behind the leaders in 16th place.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Keselowski retained the lead after exiting pit road in first place over Truex, Logano, Austin Dillon, and Elliott.
The final stage commenced with 157 laps remaining and with Keselowski pulling away with the lead over teammate Logano, Truex, Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Kyle Busch. Eight laps later, with 150 laps remaining, Keselowski extended his advantage to a second over teammate Logano with Truex, Elliott, and Kyle Busch in the top five.
Behind, teammates Almirola and Harvick moved up to sixth and seventh while Austin Dillon fell back to eighth place and in front of Kurt Busch and Bowman. Hamlin was in 11th and Bowyer was in 12th as 12 of the 16 Playoff contenders occupied the top-12 positions on the track. Custer was back in 16th place in front of DiBenedetto and Byron while Blaney was back in 21st. Reddick was the highest-running non-title contender in 13th and ahead of Kenseth and Bell.
With 140 laps remaining, Keselowski continued to stabilize his advantage by nearly a second over teammate Logano while Truex, Elliott, and Kyle Busch trailed in the top five. Harvick made his way up to sixth place in front of Austin Dillon while Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Bowman were scored in the top 10 over Hamlin and Bowyer.
Twenty laps later, with 120 laps remaining, Keselowski’s advantage grew to less than two seconds over teammate Logano with Truex trailing by three seconds. Elliott and Kyle Busch continued to run in fourth and fifth while Austin Dillon overtook Harvick for sixth place. Almirola continued to run in eighth place while Kurt Busch and Bowman were scored in the top 10.
With approximately 110 laps remaining, pit stops under green started as Hamlin pitted along with Truex, Almirola, Bowyer, Logano, Harvick, Keselowski, and Austin Dillon. Soon after, Elliott, Kyle Busch, and Bowman also pitted, giving the lead to Kurt Busch.
Down to the final 100 laps of the race, Kurt Busch was scored as the race leader, though he and his No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE needed to pit. Teammate Kenseth was in second place, trailing Kurt Busch by less than four seconds and also running on a similar strategy to Busch, followed by Logano, Keselowski, Truex, Austin Dillon, Harvick, Elliott, Kyle Busch and Almirola.
With 92 laps remaining, Logano and Keselowski moved back into first and second and Truex moved into third while Kurt Busch dropped back to fourth. Nine laps later, Keselowski muscled his way back into the lead while Austin Dillon continued to march towards the front in fourth place, trailing race leader Keselowski by four seconds and third-place Truex by more than two seconds.
Down to the final 70 laps of the race, Keselowski was ahead by more than two seconds over teammate Logano with Truex starting to reel in Logano for second place and Austin Dillon joining the party. Shortly after, Truex overtook Logano for second place and Austin Dillon followed pursuit in third.
With 64 laps remaining, Austin Dillon missed the entrance to pit road after having issues in slowing his No. 3 Chevrolet down to not speed nor miss the commitment line. Thus, he had to cycle back around another lap to complete his final four-tire pit stop under green. Not long after, more competitors made their way to pit road under green, including Logano, Hamlin, Blaney, Keselowski, Elliott, Bowyer, Almirola, Bowman, and Truex.
Back on the track, Kyle Busch assumed the lead, though he had yet to pit, and was followed by Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Kenseth while Austin Dillon was in fifth. Not long after, Kyle Busch and Harvick, who smoked his tires exiting Turn 2, pitted while Kurt Busch moved back into the lead.
With 48 laps remaining, Austin Dillon bolted his way back to the lead over Kurt Busch followed by Keselowski. A lap later, Keselowski reassumed the lead. Truex was back in third place, trailing by less than two seconds, followed by Logano and Kurt Busch while Elliott was in sixth.
With 40 laps remaining, Keselowski extended his advantage to nearly three seconds over Austin Dillon with Truex, Logano and Elliott trailing by three seconds or more. Not long after, Truex and Logano advanced to second and third while Austin Dillon fell back to fourth place in front of Elliott.
As the laps continued to progress down to its final stages, Keselowski stabilized his advantage to more than two seconds over Truex with Logano and Austin Dillon trailing by four seconds.
With less than 20 laps remaining, Keselowski continued to stabilize his advantage to more than two seconds over Truex.
Down to the final 10 laps of the race and with Keselowski still leading by more than two seconds over Truex, Logano and Austin Dillon were locked into a competitive battle for third place with Dillon prevailing for a few laps before Logano regained the spot. Meanwhile, Elliott started to track both competitors for position.
With the battling for late positions occurring behind him, Keselowski was able to maintain a healthy advantage over Truex and the field as he was able to start the final lap of the race while making his way through lapped traffic. With a dominating car and a dominating run throughout the evening, Keselowski was able to come back around and take the checkered flag to win and race his way into the second round of the Playoffs.
With Keselowski winning at Richmond for the second time in his career, Team Penske claimed its seventh victory of the season and Ford recorded its 16th Cup victory of this season. In addition, Keselowski claimed his fourth victory of the season with veteran crew chief Jeremy Bullins. Ironically, the car Keselowski won with on Saturday night at Richmond is the same car he won with at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in early August.
“It was a great race for us and the No. 2 team,” Keselowski said on NBCSN. “I think this is my car from Loudon and I wanted to do a really cool burnout with it, but I want this car for Phoenix [the finale in November]. It’s two-for-two and man, I’m real pumped. I don’t want to look too far ahead. We got to get there [the finale]. Next round’s gonna be difficult but still, I’m really pumped up about this performance and the way we ran at short tracks…Man, this thing was awesome!”
“It’s a chess game and I got blinders on,” Keselowski added on the mixed strategy that occurred throughout the race. “I don’t know what everybody’s doing and who’s on what strategy. But, Jeremy Bullins and the whole No. 2 team, excellent performance [I] Can’t thank them enough. It’s a really special day.”
Though Keselowski was ecstatic with the win, he emphasized his overall goal to continue to his momentum to make the Championship Round at Phoenix Raceway in November and be in contention for his second Cup championship.
“We gotta get there. The last few years, I haven’t made it all the way. We gotta get all the way there. If we can get to Phoenix, we’re gonna be really good.”
Truex Jr. settled in second place followed by Logano, Austin Dillon, and Elliott. Kyle Busch rallied from starting at the rear of the field to finish in sixth place followed by Harvick, Almirola, Bowman, and Bowyer.
This marked the fourth time since the inception of the Cup Playoffs in 2004 where the top-10 finishers were occupied by Playoff contenders, a feat that was also made at Dover International Speedway in September 2013, Richmond in September 2018, and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September 2019.
Hamlin finished in 12th place, a lap down, and clinched his spot to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs based on points. Kurt Busch and Custer finished 13th and 14th while DiBenedetto ended his night in 17th place. Blaney and Byron ended their long runs in 19th and 21st. Jimmie Johnson finished 31st in his 37th and final start at Richmond while Reddick was the highest finishing non-title contender in 11th.
There were 19 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured three cautions for 21 laps.
1. Brad Keselowski, 192 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Joey Logano, 45 laps led
4. Austin Dillon, 55 laps led
5. Chase Elliott, two laps led
6. Kyle Busch, four laps led
7. Kevin Harvick, 41 laps led
8. Aric Almirola
9. Alex Bowman
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Tyler Reddick
12. Denny Hamlin, one lap down, 45 laps led, Stage 1 winner
13. Kurt Busch, one lap down, 15 laps down
14. Cole Custer, one lap down
15. Christopher Bell, one lap down
16. Matt Kenseth, one lap down
17. Matt DiBenedetto, one lap down
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., two laps down
19. Ryan Blaney, two laps down
20. Ryan Preece, two laps down
21. William Byron, two laps down
22. Erik Jones, two laps down
23. Ryan Newman, three laps down
24. Chris Buescher, three laps down
25. Michael McDowell, three laps down
26. Bubba Wallace, three laps down
27. Corey LaJoie, four laps down
28. Ty Dillon, four laps down
29. Daniel Suarez, four laps down
30. John Hunter Nemechek, four laps down
31. Jimmie Johnson, five laps down
32. Quin Houff, 10 laps down
33. Brennan Poole, 10 laps down, one lap led
34. J.J. Yeley, 12 laps down
35. Joey Gase, 13 laps down
36. Reed Sorenson, 13 laps down
37. James Davison, 15 laps down
38. Timmy Hill – OUT, Rear hub
*Bold indicates Playoff contenders
1. Kevin Harvick – ADVANCED
2. Brad Keselowski – ADVANCED
3. Denny Hamlin – ADVANCED
4. Joey Logano +51
5. Martin Truex Jr. +38
6. Austin Dillon +36
7. Chase Elliott +28
8. Alex Bowman +27
9. Kyle Busch +18
10. Aric Almirola +7
11. Kurt Busch +7
12. Clint Bowyer +3
13. William Byron -3
14. Cole Custer -8
15. Matt DiBenedetto -25
16. Ryan Blaney -27
The next NASCAR Cup Series event of 2020 will occur at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race and the final Round of 16 event in the Playoffs. The race will occur on Saturday, September 19, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.