Brad Keselowski faced many opponents to duel with in the desert Saturday evening — and it wasn’t just his fellow competitors. He worked through two red flags, contact with Justin Allgaier early in the race, and a speeding penalty under yellow on his way to victory at ISM Raceway.
A race marred by stoppages was pretty tame when the green flag was out, only seeing two yellow flags for on-track problems. The entirety of the final stage went green, as Keselowski battled with rookie Christopher Bell and Allgaier.
Bell passed Keselowski’s #22 Ford with 47 to go, but came down to pit road just a few laps later with Keselowski following. The two came off pit lane side-by-side, and Keselowski — who had a superior short-run machine — prevailed on cold tyres. Bell, who finished fourth, could never muster up lap times to reel Keselowski back in.
Prior to the race’s long green run, both stages featured yellows. Stage 1 was interrupted by David Starr’s #52 blowing up. Keselowski, who just passed polesitter Allgaier, would stay out along with many others. On the ensuing restart, Keselowski slid through Turns 1 and 2 under Allgaier’s #7 car, making contact, and falling back to third in the stage. Bell and Kyle Busch could not catch Allgaier, finishing second and fourth in the segment. Daniel Hemric, Jamie McMurray, Matt Tifft, Brandon Jones, Ty Dillon, and Ryan Truex rounded out the top ten.
A red flag of over an hour followed for rain in the area. NASCAR found a hole in the radar, and got the cars back on track for Stage 2 after what seemed like an eternity. Keselowski sped on pit road making pit stops before the Stage 2 green, and Busch took the lead. With rain threatening and the stage end nearing, teams aggressively pushed for position. But with 7 to go, the #15 of Matt Mills slowed up high on the track, bringing out the yellow.
Continued rain under the yellow forced NASCAR to park the cars and bring out the red once again. After a half hour, the cars were back rolling — for a one-lap shootout. Some cars stayed out, and others opted to pit. Busch took the stage win, with Hemric and Custer behind. McMurray and Truex completed the top five. Spencer Gallagher, Allgaier, Kaz Grala, JJ Yeley, and Bell were sixth through tenth.
Allgaier took the lead as the final stage began, and led for 50 laps before Keselowski rallied back to the lead. Green flag stops occurred with just over 30 to go, and Bell, as mentioned before, could not get back to the #22.
As the rookie sensation fell off on the last run, Allgaier’s Chevy came to life, rising to second and finishing just over half a second behind Keselowski. Busch had an unusually quiet day, finishing third, followed by his teammate Bell and McMurray, who made his first Xfinity Series start in five years.
Series regulars Hemric, Tifft, Custer, Elliott Sadler, and Tyler Reddick all notched top 10 finishes. Sadler and Reddick, who both started from the back and missed out on stage points, maintain the top two spots in the series standings, with Sadler up by one point. Their JR Motorsports teammate, Allgaier, is third, followed by Bell and Hemric.
Next week, the series heads to the two-mile Auto Club Speedway on Saturday evening (FS1). The Xfinity regulars will look to break the early season 3-race win streak Cup drivers have, but it may not be easy. Since NASCAR made Cup drivers ineligible for Xfinity points in 2011, not one Xfinity driver has won at Fontana.