NASCAR Texas Notebook: Keselowski 'Mad as Hell for Not Making the Cars Faster'

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Runner-up Keselowski Leaves Texas 'Mad as Hell'Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Throughout the first 80 laps in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway, eventual runner-up Brad Keselowski dealt with a dismal, frustrating day.

However, by Lap 165 in the double overtime race won by Chase Elliott, Keselowski and his RFK Racing team had made adjustments on his Ford Dark Horse Mustang that allowed him to move into the top 10.

With 15 laps remaining in the scheduled 267-lap race, Keselowski was third, 0.790-second behind leader Denny Hamlin. However, two laps latter chaos began when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun in turn two. When the race restarted with seven laps remaining, Keselowski selected the inside lane for the restart behind leader Hamlin while Elliott chose the outside beside Hamlin.

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Brad Keselowski was the fastest in the Ford stable on Sunday in Texas.Sean Gardner - Getty Images

On the restart on Lap 260, Zane Smith collided with Kyle Larson and sent Larson’s Chevrolet spinning. That brought out the 13th of 16 caution flags. NASCAR ruled that Elliott had passed Hamlin before the yellow flag waved. This time Keselowski elected the outside line behind Hamlin for the restart.


The field didn’t make it back to the white flag before Hamlin spun his Toyota in turn four, and that sent the event into overtime.

“Just got loose in turn three,” Hamlin said. “It’s something that I had been fighting all day. When you have to push it most—on a green-white-checker—I knew that was the likely scenario. That I wasn’t going to make it out of the corner with how much speed that I was carrying.”

Elliott remined the leader, but Ross Chastain was now second, Keselowski third, William Byron fourth and Daniel Suarez fifth.

For this restart, Keselowski elected the inside lane behind Elliott, while Chastain took the outside line with Byron behind him. Suarez lined up behind Keselowski. However, once again they were unable to make it back to the white flag before Harrison Burton and Kaz Grala wrecked in the first turn.

Now the race was in double overtime. Once again, Keselowski chose to restart behind Elliott on the inside. This time, the field made it back to the white flag, but it ended under the yellow flag due to Byron hitting the rear of Chastain’s Chevrolet on the backstretch and turning him into the wall on the final lap.

“I didn’t want to wreck him there, but he blocked me late,” Byron said. “I was already there and, unfortunately, we made enough contact to where it got him squirrelly and it happened, but it’s the last lap and I had the run, so I am going to just take the run. I didn’t expect it.”

Elliott was the victor in the 276-lap race for the first time since Talladega 2022, snapping a 42-race winless streak, and Keselowski pulled out a second-place finish. It was Keselowski’s best finish of the season and his second top-five this year.

“The driver in me is frustrated because I feel like these are races I am good enough to win, but don’t have the speed enough to do it,” Keselowski said. “The owner in me is mad as hell because it is my fault for not making the cars faster. I am still proud of the team that we have with the pit stops and strategy and execution to put ourselves in position to get a finish we probably didn’t deserve but earned with some never-give-up spirit.

"You can still get good finishes by running good smart days, executing on pit road, and having great strategy and I am proud of our team for doing that today.”

Loose Wheel Foils Larson’s Day

In the first 100 laps in Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400, Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet was clearly the car to beat as the Hendrick Motorsports driver easily led 77 laps. However, during the fourth caution period that consumed laps 115-118, the wheel fell off—literally.

Larson told his crew that he felt like he had a flat tire and within seconds after the two-way radio transmission, his car’s right-rear wheel fell off while the car was on the track. NASCAR assessed Larson a two-lap penalty that left him 36th, two laps down and out of victory contention.

Larson, who started the race on the pole, regained one of his lost laps when Michael McDowell smacked the fourth-turn wall on lap 143, triggering the seventh caution period. The California native returned to the lead lap when the race’s second stage ended on lap 165. With 65 laps remaining in the scheduled 267-lap race, Larson had made it back into the top 20. He made it up to 17th before getting tagged by Zane Smith on lap 260 and sent into a spin.

Larson had to settle for a 21st-place finish.

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Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing showed improvement at Texas.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Best Performance by RCR This Season

Overall, Richard Childress Racing’s 2024 NASCAR Cup season has been a frustrating nightmare. In the first eight races, Kyle Busch had one top-five finish, while teammate Austin Dillon had none.

In fact, Dillon’s best finish had been 16th. Changes were made and Justin Alexander returned as Dillon’s crew chief for the Martinsville race. It was another dismal weekend at the short track with Dillon finishing 34th and Busch 16th.

Then came Texas.

Initially, it appeared it would be another frustrating weekend when Busch crashed his Chevrolet in practice and had to revert to a backup car. Then Busch was involved in a first-turn accident with rookie Carson Hocevar on Lap 114. However, as the race progressed, Busch and Dillon advanced through the field.

Eventually, Dillon produced an eighth-place finish and Busch took ninth. It was the first time this season that both RCR cars had recorded top-10 finishes.

“To come home with eighth is big because we had struggled with the handling of the car,” Dillon said. “We made some good calls to get us some track position, and we had some good restarts at the end to get us a good finish. Man, after this year, this feels like a win.”