In the first short track race of the season for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Brad Keselowski led the field of the STP 500 for an incredible 446 of 500 total laps and still found himself hounded to the finish line by Chase Elliott in his NAPA clad No. 9 Chevy.
Keselowski started the race from the third position, and it didn’t take him long to move to the front of the pack as he passed pole sitter Joey Logano on lap seven to begin the longest laps-led streak of his career, and the second longest streak since Richard Petty led 484 laps in his 1992 Rockingham win.
Elliott qualified as the seventh driver on the day and, despite having what appeared to be the superior short track car, had some difficulty moving through the pack as the cars raced around the half-mile circuit. It was not until lap 325 that Elliott, the only driver to pass Keselowski on the day, was able to pull high around the outside and take the lead.
For 48 laps, the longest he has led this season, Elliott held off Keselowski as they jockeyed for position in the tight corners while Kyle Busch, seeking his third consecutive victory, pressured both drivers.
An accident on lap 372 put the race under caution and the timing of pit stops gave the lead back to Keselowski’s Ford Mustang on lap 380.
The final laps of the race saw a ferocious, high-speed battle among the top-three drivers as Keselowski fended off Elliott’s multiple passing attempts while Elliott simultaneously fended off the hard-charging Busch.
In the end, only 1.325 seconds separated the trio as Keselowski took the checkered flag with Elliott following .594 second behind him, and Busch pulling in third a mere .731 seconds slower.
The second-place finish marked the highest finish of the season for Elliott and the Hendricks Racing team as they prepared for the upcoming O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway March 31.