Brad Keselowski shows strength at Atlanta, ends up short on final lap

HAMPTON, Ga. — Brad Keselowski’s first victory driving for RFK Racing was so close he could taste it.

One of the most dominant cars in the final stage of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Keselowski and his No. 6 Ford Mustang had to settle for second after a dogfight with former Team Penske teammate Joey Logano went the latter’s way on the final lap.

“It just didn’t come together there at the end,” Keselowski told media after the race. “Joey (Logano) got such a huge run down the frontstretch, there was just nothing I could do.”

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Keselowski led the field to green for the final time on Lap 231, battling to stop the momentum of big runs forming behind him in both the top and bottom groove. To the bottom, the Team Penske trio was lined up, spearheaded by a hard-charging Logano, who had led more than 100 laps to that point in the race. On the final lap, Logano manufactured a magnificent run from the bottom lane — the racing line that had been the weaker of the two lanes throughout much of the race.

Brad Keselowski (6) races alongside Joey Logano at the front of the pack at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Brad Keselowski (6) races alongside Joey Logano at the front of the pack at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Despite tremendous experience racing his former colleague, Keselowski could only watch the No. 22 speed through Turn 4 with the lead and sail past the start/finish line just ahead of him.

“We know each other’s moves pretty well, for sure,” Keselowski explained. “But, you know, it’s just a matter of how the cookie crumbles. It kinda came his way there at the end and he made a good move, so, kudos to him. We’re right there, though. Our team just continues to improve and show what we’re made of, so I’m proud of that.”

The No. 6 team’s strong showing Sunday was indicative of the significant upward trend RFK Racing has been on this season. Entering Sunday’s race, both RFK Fords were in the top 10 at points and the valiant runner-up finish for Keselowski at Atlanta only anchored the fact that they are moving in the right direction — although, Chris Buescher was caught up in a major crash that ended his day early.

Sunday’s second-place result is Keselowski’s best since joining the organization as c0-owner before the 2022 Cup Series season. And through the season’s first five races, Keselowski is the only premier-series driver to lead a lap in every race.

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Even though he was frustrated with second, Keselowski was pleased with how the race turned out and had high praise for the intense racing during the long, green-flag stretch to the finish.

“This is actually one of the best races here that you’re ever gonna see,” said Keselowski. “I was really impressed that we were able to run the last 40 or 50-something laps without everybody just wrecking each other. It was a good mix of drivers up front who just ran smart races and showed that you can run side-by-side. You can do this without wrecking each other. It really is the drivers that make the decision.”

Still, in search of his 36th career Cup Series victory, there is a clear sting from finishing just a single position shy of another trip to Victory Lane. But Keselowski chose to reflect on the high notes.

“You wish it would have paid off with a win, but it paid off for us to have a great day,” Keselowski said. “Good day for our team overall. Just one spot short.”

Cup Series action resumes Sunday at Circuit of The Americas (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix for NASCAR’s first road-course challenge of the season.