Heading into Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway, Brad Keselowski had four restrictor-plate wins on his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series resume.
Surprisingly, none of them were at the 2.5-mile superspeedway located in Florida.
That all changed Saturday as the Michigan driver avoided the “big one” — a Lap 91 accident that collected 22 drivers — survived a pair of late-race restarts and a NASCAR overtime finish to win his third race of the season and his fifth at a restrictor-plate track.
It didn’t take Keselowski, driving the No. 2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford Fusion, long to make it to the front after starting fifth. By Lap 9, he had seized control and led or ran in the top five the rest of the way. He led a race-high 115 of 161 laps. However, his hold on the top spot was challenged twice during the last 10 laps when two separate accidents brought out the yellow flag — the second of which created the need for overtime racing.
With his teammate Joey Logano lined up behind him, Keselowski got a good jump on the final restart and created a little separation between him and the other drivers. As the field exited Turn 4 on the final lap of the race, brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch were running second and third when Kurt’s car went spinning through the infield. The No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS of Kurt Busch crossed the finish line backwards all the way back in 23rd position.
Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell.
The win was Team Penske’s 100th in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
Seven drivers’ nights were ended prematurely by the Lap 91 “big one” — Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Brian Scott, Regan Smith, Kevin Harvick and Chris Buescher. The other drivers involved in the accident were Martin Truex Jr., Danica Patrick, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Gilliland, Kasey Kahne, Michael Annett, Cole Whitt and Matt DiBenedetto.
(Note: Only the 10 drivers receiving the highest average rankings are shown. The number of spots they’ve moved since the previous Power 10 are shown in the parentheses.)
1. Kevin Harvick (–): Even with a 39th-place finish, Kevin holds a 14-point advantage in the official standings and continues to be rooted to the top spot in the Power 10.
2. Brad Keselowski (+6): Brad became the second driver of 2016 to claim three victories in NASCAR’s premier series, which prompted his jump in the standings and in these rankings.
3. Kurt Busch (–): Kurt had a chance to challenge for the win in the last lap, but a spin through Daytona’s infield changed all that. Regardless, his 23rd-place finish didn’t hurt him here.
4. Kyle Busch (–): The only other driver this year with three wins is Kyle. I guess it’s only fitting that he finished the race in second and could have possibly won if it was extended a couple laps.
5. Carl Edwards (-3): Carl didn’t have quite the finish he was looking for at Daytona. After leading the race’s first eight laps, he was involved in the last two accidents and had his night end early.
6. Joey Logano (–): A fourth-place showing as well as leading six laps Saturday night are the two main reasons Joey is standing pat in sixth in Lionel Racing’s Power 10.
7. Chase Elliott (-1): Chase may have damaged his car in Daytona’s “big one,” but at least the accident didn’t do too much damage to his position here.
8. Jimmie Johnson (+1): Jimmie may have been one of the two drivers (the other being McMurray) to set off the “big one,” but he still managed to climb the rankings one spot.
9. Martin Truex Jr. (-4): With one win and seven top-10 finishes already this season, Martin’s position in Lionel Racing’s Power 10 could withstand a 29th-place finish at Daytona.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (–): Although Dale was caught up in the “big one” and ultimately finished 21st, he is holding on to the last spot in our Power 10 as one of only two drivers on the list without a win.