Darlington, S.C. — Brad Keselowski won his first race at Darlington in a very Darlington way.
Keselowski came out on top in the Xfinity race Saturday after leaders Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick wrecked 37 laps from the end in an incident where the 2014 NASCAR champion drove into Chastain’s pit stall to complain and then pointedly said his 25-year-old colleague was too inexperienced and wreckless to drive at this level.
Keselowski easily got around the wreck and could not be caught as he led the final 35 laps. Cole Custer was second and Tyler Reddick was third. Denny Hamlin, who was the race’s defending champion and won the pole for Sunday night’s Southern 500, was fourth.
“This is such a huge confidence booster,” Keselowski said.
Keselowski had a second and two thirds in 15 combined Xfinity and NASCAR Cup Series races at Darlington.
Keselowski saw the two leaders tangle, went low and got through.
“You could see it coming,” Keselowski said. “I’m just glad we came out on top.”
Keselowski had passed Chastain with 44 laps to go, but Chastain quickly regained the lead and stayed there until the decisive wreck.
Chastain and Harvick were side by side in passing a lapped car 110 laps in when it appeared Harvick forced Chastain briefly into the wall. As Chastain moved down the track, he clipped Harvick’s rear and sent him spinning up the track. An angry Harvick went into the pits, stopping at Chastain’s stall to yell at his crew before moving behind the wall and out of the race.
Harvick said the incident was caused by a “really inexperienced guy in a really fast car. Made a really bad move and then wrecked me.”
Harvick continued, saying that moves like that are why the 25-year-old Chastain will “never get the chance to drive many (races) again.”
Chastain said he’ll examine tape of the wreck and if he was at fault, he’ll learn from it. He was not sure when or if he’d speak to Harvick, one of NASCAR’s most dominant and fiery personalities. “If I made a mistake, it’s on me,” said Chastain, who won the pole and the first two of three stages in the race. “Being the leader there, I was just trying to race.”
Harvick and Chastain will see each other again Sunday in the Southern 500. Harvick is starting 22nd and Chastain 33rd.
Keselowski will start 13th in Sunday’s race, filled with a bit more enthusiasm and belief after the win.
“The half-dozen races I’ve run here have gone quite awful,” Keselowski said. “I’ve tried to figure out why that is and running this race certainly helps. It gives me confidence and direction to know what to work on.”
Will Power is clinging to a spot in the championship race and the Indianapolis 500 winner will start from the pole in IndyCar’s return to Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore.
Power won the 54th pole of his career and fourth of the season. The Australian is coming off a victory last weekend on an oval near St. Louis, and a victory Sunday on the permanent road course would ensure he’s got a shot at winning his first IndyCar title.
Scott Dixon, the four-time IndyCar champion, holds a 26-point lead over Alexander Rossi. Power and defending series champion Josef Newgarden are both mathematically eligible to win the title.
Newgarden qualified second for a Team Penske front row pair of Chevrolets.
Ferrari will be hopeful of ending an eight-year wait for a win at its home track after taking the front two places on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix for the first time since 2000.
Surprisingly, it was Kimi Raikkonen who edged his teammate and title hopeful Sebastian Vettel in qualifying at Monza, Italy, to clinch only his second pole position in 10 years.
Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who saw his advantage cut to 17 points last weekend, was third fastest — missing out on pole at Monza for the first time in five years.
It was also a track record at Monza, with Raikkonen clocking 1:19.119 — at an average speed of 163.8 mph — to beat Juan Pablo Montoya’s 14-year mark.
Mike Salinas remained he Top Fuel leader in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Salinas had a 3.756-second run at 321.04 mph during the first round of qualifying Friday in his Scrappers Metal Racing dragster.
J.R. Todd led in Funny Car, Tanner Gray in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Defending event winner Todd had a 3.910 at 325.45 in a Toyota Camry on Friday that stood through both sessions. Gray had a 6.603 at 208.68 in a Chevrolet Camaro, and Krawiec ran a 6.825 at 197.02 on a Harley-Davidson — also both from Friday.