Brad Keselowski’s trip to victory lane in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was certainly not without issue.
The Team Penske driver rolled through his pit stall on the final stop of the race, had alternator issues, and had to deal with a hungry Kyle Busch and lapped traffic in the closing laps.
Overcoming all of that, Keselowski was able to hold off Busch’s charge to score his first Nationwide Series win at Las Vegas, and first of the year.
"We found every way we could to make it hard," Keselowski said in victory lane. "This Ford was flying today."
Facing a host of issues in the closing laps, Keselowski remained focused on hitting his marks and getting his job done inside the car.
"If you sit and dwell on that stuff, you don’t focus on the job at hand – that’s running perfect laps, hitting your marks, getting through traffic and trying to predict what they’re going to do," he said. "That’s what’s so difficult when you’re having any kind of issue in the car, it can easily take you away from the task at hand on the track. It’s a balancing act for sure."
Following the race, NASCAR inspectors announced they would take the right rear shock from Keselowski’s car back to the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, N.C. for further inspection. NASCAR indicated they would like to conduct a more thorough examination of the pressure before determining if the shock was legal.
Busch’s day was also full of obstacles as he was forced to start at the rear of the filed after the team discovered a frayed alternator belt following knockout qualifying.
Starting out back did not slow his progress, however, as his No. 54 Toyota sliced through the field.
Busch took the green flag in the 40th spot, but by Lap 13 was inside the top 10. Just 31 laps into the race, Busch was in fifth. By Lap 75 he was in second and he took the lead for the first time on Lap 120.
The turning point of the race came when Busch took the high side to restart the race on Lap 162. Keselowski was able to get a big push from Chase Elliott to take the lead.
Coming up short, Busch was forced to swallow a disappointing finish in front of his hometown crowd once again.
"I don’t know what caused us to lose the lead," Busch said. "I think that cost us the race. That was unfortunate."
Busch said lane choice was not the deciding factor in Keselowski taking the lead on that restart.
"I stepped on the gas and the car didn’t go," he said. "It felt like I was holding a parachute the way those guys went by me. I was third before I even got to Turn 1."
Kyle Larson overcame early contact with the wall to finish third, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Brian Scott, Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher and Regan Smith rounded out the top 10.
Keselowski and Busch were certainly in a class of their own, leading a combined 177 of 200 laps. They also put on a torrent pace, with only nine cars on the lead lap when the checkered flag fell.
"The 22 and the 54 car are extremely good," Larson said. "That’s what everybody’s teams strive to be like. They’ve got everyone handled right now."
Chase Elliott echoed Larson’s thoughts on the strength of Keselowski and Busch as well.
"The 54 and the 22 are in such a league of their own right now," he said. "I hope JR Motorsports is that next group to catch them."
In addition to Keselowski’s post-race issue, NASCAR also announced Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet failed post-race inspection for being too low in the left front. Any penalties or fines will be announced Tuesday.