NASCAR Darlington: Penske's Brad Keselowski gets first win of 2018

Penske's Brad Keselowski snatched his first victory of the 2018 NASCAR Cup series season, vaulting ahead of long-time race leader Kyle Larson late on at Darlington

Winning the opening two stages and controlling the majority of the final stage, Chip Ganassi Racing's Larson led 284 of 367 laps.

Despite his lead surviving two restarts in the closing stages, a spin for Jeffrey Earnhardt on lap 344 triggered one final caution and one final pit window.

A quick pitstop allowed Keselowski to jump Larson in the pitlane. The Penske driver was able to control the lead at the restart to seize victory and book an automatic place in the playoffs.

Keselowski had finished stage one in fifth place and ended stage two in second. His Cup series victory follows a win in Saturday's Xfinity race at Darlington.

Larson struggled after being demoted by Keselowski ahead of the final restart. He slipped behind Keselowski's team-mate Joey Logano and was forced to hold off Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick in the final laps.

Behind the Penske one-two, Larson managed to beat Harvick by 0.297s across the line to seal third place in a rare race that was not dominated by NASCAR's 'Big Three'.

Harvick had started the race in 22nd, climbing into sixth place by the end of stage one.

In stage two, Harvick battled Martin Truex Jr and Larson for the race lead at mid-distance, before his tyres faded at the end of the segment after SHR attempted to make one fewer pitstop compared to the majority of the field.

Truex's challenge faltered towards the end of stage two. During his final pitstop in the segment, an uncontrolled tyre meant that he was handed a drivethrough penalty, which dropped him one lap down.

He was unable to recover the lap in the free pass position, as Larson managed to lap Austin Dillon in a drag race to the line at the end of the stage.

Truex ended up finishing in 11th after he was unable to recover to the lead lap later on.

Chase Elliott managed to pass Erik Jones after the final restart to grab fifth place after he had figured in the top 10 through the race.

While Joe Gibbs Racing's Jones had been Larson's closest challenger in the opening stage, he dropped down the order after suffering an uncontrolled tyre penalty ahead of stage two. Despite working his way back into contention, he struggled at the final restart and ended up eighth.

He was demoted late on by the Busch brothers, with SHR's Kurt finishing ahead of JGR's Kyle, in sixth and seventh respectively.

Jamie McMurray finished the race in ninth place. His practice mileage was compromised by an engine blowout and he started from the back of the field after the team used qualifying as an additional opportunity to test.

Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman were both in contention for a top 10 finish before the two collided in the latter stages.

Newman slowed down in order the enter the pits and Bowyer was unsighted, slamming into the rear of the #31. Both drivers were uninjured.

Darlington is considered NASCAR's 'throwback' weekend with the majority of the field running retro liveries honouring historic drivers, teams and moments in the series' history.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 3h48m54.s
2 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 1.224s
3 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 3.761s
4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 4.058s
5 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 4.614s
6 Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 6.498s
7 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 6.730s
8 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 6.966s
9 Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 8.849s
10 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 8.865s
11 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Toyota 9.185s
12 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford 20.689s
13 Chris Buescher JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 23.641s
14 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 24.982s
15 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 25.144s
16 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 31.830s
17 Paul Menard Wood Brothers Racing Ford 1 Lap
18 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford 1 Lap
19 Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 1 Lap
20 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 2 Laps
21 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet 2 Laps
22 A.J. Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 2 Laps
23 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 2 Laps
24 Kasey Kahne Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet 3 Laps
25 Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Racing Ford 3 Laps
26 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 4 Laps
27 Corey LaJoie TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet 7 Laps
28 Ross Chastain Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 7 Laps
29 Daniel Suarez Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 9 Laps
30 Landon Cassill StarCom Racing Chevrolet 10 Laps
31 J.J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 17 Laps
32 B.J. McLeod Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 20 Laps
33 Derrike Cope StarCom Racing Chevrolet 21 Laps
34 Jeffrey Earnhardt Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota 23 Laps
35 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Engine
36 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Accident
37 Timmy Hill MBM Motorsports Toyota Engine
38 Matt DiBenedetto Go FAS Racing Ford Rear end
39 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Oil pump
40 Joey Gase BK Racing Toyota Accident

Drivers' championship

Pos Driver Points
1 Kyle Busch 1038
2 Kevin Harvick 999
3 Martin Truex Jr. 883
4 Kurt Busch 835
5 Joey Logano 818
6 Brad Keselowski 785
7 Kyle Larson 783
8 Clint Bowyer 777
9 Ryan Blaney 755
10 Denny Hamlin 738
11 Chase Elliott 737
12 Aric Almirola 681
13 Erik Jones 679
14 Jimmie Johnson 605
15 Alex Bowman 586
16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 518
17 Ryan Newman 503
18 Austin Dillon 496
19 Paul Menard 493
20 Daniel Suarez 487
21 Jamie McMurray 464
22 William Byron 444
23 Chris Buescher 404
24 A.J. Allmendinger 391
25 David Ragan 368
26 Michael McDowell 361
27 Kasey Kahne 358
28 Darrell Wallace Jr. 357
29 Ty Dillon 326
30 Matt DiBenedetto 267
31 Trevor Bayne 214
32 Matt Kenseth 129
33 Gray Gaulding 118
34 Cole Whitt 90
35 Corey LaJoie 89
36 Jeffrey Earnhardt 73
37 Reed Sorenson 45
38 Harrison Rhodes 23
39 Blake Jones 21
40 Kyle Weatherman 16
41 Mark Thompson 15
42 Derrike Cope 8
43 Chris Cook 6
44 Tomy Drissi 5
45 Danica Patrick 2
46 Cody Ware 1

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