NASCAR: Brad Keselowski wins for first time in over 100 races at Darlington

Brad Keselowski is back in victory lane.

Keselowski won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington after Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick made contact while racing for the lead with 11 laps to go.

Reddick got to the inside of Buescher and pushed Buescher into the wall. That allowed Keselowski to drive past both of them from third after Reddick and Buescher both slowed because of tire issues.

The win is the first for Keselowski since he was with Team Penske in 2021. He left Penske after that season to join Roush Fenway Racing as a minority owner.

The first season at the renamed Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing was rough. Keselowski finished 24th in the points standings and had just one top-five finish. The team made a leap in 2023 as Keselowski had seven top fives and finished eighth in the points standings. But he carried a 110-race winless streak into Sunday's race that dated back to the spring race in Talladega three seasons ago.

Now, he’s guaranteed to be back in the playoffs for a second straight season. That 2022 season was the first time since 2016 that the 2012 champion had finished outside the top 10 in points.

"When Tyler got underneath Chris I knew I had another shot at it, but they made contact and I couldn't get by and I'm like 'Ahhh,'" Keselowski said on Fox after climbing from his car. "And [Buescher] must have got a flat tire, I don't know what happened. We caught a break. And we've caught enough bad breaks for the last year or two it's nice to catch a good one."

Ty Gibbs ended up finishing second ahead of Josh Berry in third and Denny Hamlin in fourth. Buescher wound up 30th and ahead of Reddick in 32nd. After the race, an angry Buescher climbed from his car to confront and push a seemingly apologetic Reddick. The two drivers had a frustrated conversation that didn’t turn into anything more after the initial shove.

“We got wrecked,” Buescher said on Fox. “That one’s clear as day. Don’t need any cameras to tell us.”

The cameras comment is a reference to a week ago at Kansas, where Buescher lost by inches to Kyle Larson in the closest finish in NASCAR history. He seemed to be on his way to a win after that agonizing finish, but Reddick's move for the win ruined that.

Buescher got the lead thanks to contact between the two drivers who started the race on the front row. Reddick and Keselowski were the two fastest cars all day and restarted on the front row after the race's final caution with less than 40 laps to go.

Keselowski did all he could to get past Reddick on the inside of the egg-shaped track and the two drivers made contact multiple times. After they raced for laps without either driver getting clear, they bumped again and slowed down enough to allow Buescher to sail to the lead on lap 265 of the 293-lap race.

Keselowski faded to third as Reddick kept touch with Buescher and likely had no shot at the win had the two drivers not made contact.

"I completely understand where he's coming from," Reddick said of Buescher. "He's running the top, running his own race, running his own line, keeping me at bay. I made a really aggressive move and was hoping I was going to clear him and realized I wasn't going to. I tried to check up and not slide up into him and ... yeah, I wish I wouldn't have done that, unfortunately."

"I completely understand why he's that mad. He did nothing wrong. Just trying to win the race and to take myself out, that's one thing, I can live with that. Just disappointed it played out the way it did and took him out of the race as well. That was not the goal there."

Three recent Cup Series champions had frustrating days at Darlington.

We'll start with the most recent Cup champ. Ryan Blaney finished last after he was essentially taken out of the race when he got pinched into the wall by Martin Truex Jr. and William Byron.

Blaney was on the outside as the three were three-wide and Truex slid into him as Byron moved up the track. The contact ruined both Truex and Blaney's day.

“Me and [Truex] got put three-wide and it’s just a tight corner," Blaney said after he got out of the infield care center. "The replay I saw, [Byron] took up probably more racetrack than he should have after kind of rewatching it back. I thought it was just, kind of got tight, but you can’t run three-wide through there. Nobody wanted to lift and I got tagged and then kind of collected a few guys. [Byron] took up more track than I would have liked, honestly. He kind of sandwiched [Truex] into me, but it’s a really, really crappy end to our day."

Truex went on to finish 25th.

Larson crashed out of the race in the third stage after he had a flat tire. The 2021 Cup Series champion finished 34th ahead of his IndyCar foray. Larson will begin practice for his first Indianapolis 500 attempt this week and qualify for the race next weekend ahead of the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro.

Larson is set to be the fifth driver to race in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day on May 26.

1. Brad Keselowski

2. Ty Gibbs

3. Josh Berry

4. Denny Hamlin

5. Chase Briscoe

6. William Byron

7. Bubba Wallace

8. Alex Bowman

9. Justin Haley

10. Michael McDowell

11. Ross Chastain

12. Chase Elliott

13. Christopher Bell

14. Noah Gragson

15. Todd Gillian

16. Corey LaJoie

17. Ryan Preece

18. Kaz Grala

19. Erik Jones

20. Austin Cindric

21. Joey Logano

22. Harrison Burton

23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

24. Daniel Suarez

25. Martin Truex Jr.

26. Carson Hocevar

27. Kyle Busch

28. Austin Dillon

39. Derek Kraus

30. Chris Buescher

31. John Hunter Nemechek

32. Tyler Reddick

33. Daniel Henric

34. Kyle Larson

35. Zane Smith

36. Ryan Blaney