Concord, N.C. — Brad Keselowski walked into the interview room and said, “Oh, that’s nice — air conditioning.”
Keselowski (Rochester Hills) overcame a humid afternoon and an hour-long rain delay Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway to become the first repeat winner on the Xfinity Series this season.
“I don’t know if I have ever been that hot in a race car,” Keselowski said. “It was smoking out there.”
Ten drivers won the previous 10 Xfinity races.
“Yeah it has been a tale of two cities compared to the Cup Series where there have been multiple repeat winners,” Keselowski said.
The Cup driver has 38 Xfinity victories, also winning the rain-delayed Phoenix race in March.
Keselowski won in overtime after the yellow flag came out for debris on the track with two laps remaining in the scheduled 200-lap race. He took off in Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford on a restart with two laps remaining and held off Cole Custer and Christopher Bell, who finished second and third respectively.
Keselowski took his final set of tires earlier than some of the drivers, a decision crew chief Brian Wilson said he later regretted. But Keselowski benefited from the handful of yellow flags in the final 40 laps that saved some wear and tear on his tires.
Bell thought he had a chance to overtake Keselowski on the final restart because he had fresher tires, but said “I just didn’t execute.”
“We probably had the right strategy but the old Cup guy just beat us,” Bell said.
Keselowski’s win comes just a few days after team owner Roger Penske was selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
He quickly turned his attention to the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.
“It would be really cool to sweep Memorial Day weekend,” Keselowski said.
Daniel Ricciardo took a dominant pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, softening the blow for Red Bull after his teammate Max Verstappen failed to even start qualifying, having earlier crashed in final practice.
Ricciardo topped all three sections of qualifying, setting a lap record in the process for only his second career pole. The other was also in Monaco, two years ago.
“We sent a statement and have been quickest every session,” Ricciardo said. “Just the race tomorrow and then we will celebrate. I have done everything I can so let’s finish the job.”
That sounded like a coded message to his team after a botched pit stop cost him victory here in 2016.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel qualified second ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. In a further boost for Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen was fourth ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
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