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• While Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney were the primary pursuers of Martin Truex Jr. over the final laps of Saturday night’s race at Kansas, neither Blaney nor Harvick finished second. Brad Keselowski did.
And he came from two laps down to do it.
Keselowski started 17th and worked his way into the top 10 in the second stage. But he was forced to head to pit road for a vibration and then drove through too many pit boxes after his unscheduled pit stop. The stop and ensuing drive-through penalty meant he rejoined the race two laps down.
But thanks to the 15 cautions that plagued Saturday night’s race, Keselowski was able to get back onto the lead lap and then work his way through traffic once again to get back to the front.
[Related: Aric Almirola airlifted after nasty crash]
It’s not the first time in 2017 that Keselowski has had a crazy second-place finish. He sustained damage early in the race at California and fought back to finish behind race winner Kyle Larson.
In previous seasons, a second-place born out of resiliency and speed could be seen as more rewarding than one where a driver ran up front all day. But not in 2017, according to Keselowski. Since he spent so much time Saturday night and at California working his way back to the front he missed out on some stage points.
“You know, we finished second here two [weeks ago], and last week we finished seventh and lost points all three weeks because of the stages,” Keselowski said. “You have to run up front. You have to get through the early and middle part of the race without having issues or you lose points, so that’s one of the beauties of this format is you can’t just kind of buzzard‑pick at the end. So we still lost points today, which is a bummer, considering that we finished second, and I think fifth or sixth in one of those stages. But that just shows how tough the competition is and how important the stages are.”
• Kyle Busch won Saturday night’s first stage and finished fifth, earning more points (48) than all but two drivers in the field. But the speed of his car tailed off throughout the evening.
“We won the first segment and then the second segment I thought we were – had a shot to win that one as well too,” Busch said. “I think we were third in that one and once it got dark out we just kind of lost it. Actually, other guys just got faster. The delta just got greater where those guys picked up a lot of speed and we didn’t. I don’t know where that’s at, but the guys gave me a great piece here. We had a lot of fun.”
[Related: Martin Truex Jr. wins]
Joe Gibbs Racing hasn’t won through the first 11 races of the season, though Busch scored a win Friday night in the Camping World Truck Series race. While Gibbs hasn’t won yet, Truex Jr. has two wins this season. And he drives for JGR satellite team Furniture Row Racing.
Is it time to panic for JGR? No, it’s still really early and the team will win soon enough. But Matt Kenseth is 18th in the standings and Daniel Suarez is 19th. With drivers like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman already recording wins in 2017, there could be a recognizable crowd of drivers fighting for the final spots in the playoffs on points.
As Keselowski cruised around their incident to his second-place finish, Johnson was about to complete a crazy comeback of his own had he not spun out. Johnson, who started near the back of the field because he didn’t make a qualifying attempt, drove through the field in the first stage and finished it in seventh.
But a flat tire under green during the second stage forced him to drive through again. And he got back to the top 10. As he spun with four laps to go, however, there was clearly not enough time to get back to the front again. He finished 24th, while Busch was 19th and Hamlin was 23rd.
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