Brad Keselowski didn’t lead the most laps but he led the ones that counted in the Xfinity Series at Richmond on Friday. An otherwise dominant Kyle Busch led late but was overtaken when Keselowski’s long-run strength kicked in allowing for the pass with 16 laps remaining.
It looked like a classic case of Busch whipping the lower series field on Friday night. Despite leading a race-high 182 laps, his #18 car got stuck in lapped traffic while Keselowski surged. A gutsy move in traffic saw Busch give up the lead for good. Keselowski was never challenged after the final pass and easily cruised to victory.
The driver of the Team Penske Mustang acknowledged in Victory Lane how excited he was to pass Busch. In spite of a rocky relationship, Keselowski noted his respect for Busch as being one of the best and relished overcoming him at the end to earn the win.
NASCAR’s Xfinity Series closes out its regular season after one more race. Playoffs will begin after next week’s trip to Chicagoland Speedway. Eight races remain as the series heads toward the finale at Homestead.
Ty Dillon managed a finish of third behind the two Cup veterans. He was followed by Daniel Hemric, the highest finishing Xfinity regular, and Elliott Sadler who rounded out the top five.
Sadler’s strong finish continued a chain of consistency that secured him the regular season championship. He’ll begin the playoffs with an additional 15 playoff points. Even without winning a race, Sadler has managed to have the best average finish of any driver in Xfinity so far this season. The longtime veteran will rely on his consistency to compete for his first championship in any series.
Teammate William Byron finished in the seventh spot. He’s right behind Sadler in the regular season standings as well as the order of current playoff contenders. His three wins are the most of any Xfinity full-time competitors. At this point there’s no passing Sadler and his second spot is likely a guarantee.
In addition to Sadler and Byron, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed, Brennan Poole, and Daniel Hemric had secured playoff positions prior to the race. Cole Custer, Matt Tifft, and Jeremy Clements locked their spots after Richmond’s conclusion.
Clements is the Cinderella Story of the season after having outdueled Matt Tifft via a late-race spin at Road America two weeks ago. The underfunded family team will have their work cut out for them as the only playoff competitor at the moment without major financial backing.
The final three playoff spots will be up for grabs next race. If the regular season ended today, Blake Koch, Michael Annett, and Brendan Gaughan would hold those. There isn’t a great deal of competition behind them but teams will be going for broke to try and steal a win as Clements did recently.
A new rule for 2017 will change the look of the remaining eight races. Cup regulars with more than five years of experience are not allowed entry to the final stretch. This will allow for the playoff teams and hopefuls to see the likes of Busch and Keselowski staying off of the track for the reaming Xfinity championship battles.
The Chicagoland 300 will run next weekend as the regular season concludes. Expect fireworks as the final three spots and a playoff-clinching win are up for grabs.