Brad Keselowski was battling flu-like symptoms all weekend but fought through to win his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season.
Keselowski, who received two IV injections before the race, held off a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The win is Keselowski’s second at Atlanta and the 28th of his Cup career. This also marks three consecutive top-three finishes at Atlanta for Keselowski, who clinched his spot in the Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
“I was good enough to get the job done,” Keselowski said. “First I have to give credit to first, my wife [Paige], who was sick like I was. She took care of me just like everybody did in the care center. I couldn’t be here right now without you.
“And second, Doug Yates, we ran over a piece of debris with probably 50 laps to go and overheated really bad and I thought there was no way this engine would make it to the end. Doug Yates and his team, they do a great job. I’m pretty sure it’s all used up, Doug, but it’s in Victory Lane.”
With the win, Keselowski broke a tie with Indianapolis legend Mark Donohue for the most wins as a Team Penske driver with 60. The driver of the No. 2 Ford has won 27 of his 28 Cup victories for Roger Penske. The other win came in April 2009 at Talladega when Keselowski ran a partial schedule for car owner James Finch driving the No. 09 Chevrolet.
“This is one I’m not going to forget for a very long time,” he said. “Any win means a lot, but that’s a big number. Now, I get to wear that yellow Mark Donohue helmet. We’re going to wear it next week.
“What a tremendous honor.”
Completing the top- five were Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Clint Bowyer.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher, and Daniel Suarez.
The race was the first for the 2019 rules package at an intermediate track. Cars featured larger spoilers, increased downforce, and a tapered spacer to reduce horsepower. However, to the surprise of many, speeds were actually up from a year ago.
Kyle Busch, who was making his 500th career Cup start, rallied to finish sixth after he suffered a flat right-rear tire on Lap 223. It was a topsy turvy weekend for Busch, who won Friday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, but crashed his primary car in Saturday’s final Cup practice, and was forced to start from the rear of the field.
Kyle Larson led the most laps (142) but slid to 12th after getting busted for a speeding penalty on Lap 225. Larson has failed to win the last five races after he led the most laps, including four times last season.
On Lap 268, there was a bizarre incident on pit road during green flag stops that caused a caution. B.J. McLeod slowed down significantly and attempted to turn into the wrong pit stall. Meanwhile, Ryan Preece, who was glancing at his tachometer, plowed into the rear of McLeod. Both cars suffered heavy damage. It was later reported that McLeod was about five stalls away from his actual stall.
Truex was also penalized for having a crew member go over the wall too soon. However, on further review, NASCAR rescinded the penalty.
On Lap 293, Keselowski passed his teammate Joey Logano to take the lead. Logano, who was seeking his first Atlanta win, was forced to hit pit road for a loose wheel soon with just 20 laps to go. His other teammate, Ryan Blaney, was also forced to hit the pits on Lap 313 for a flat tire.
Keselowski, with the flu bug, avoided the tire bug and held off Truex for his first win of 2019.
Larson won Stage One and Harvick was the Stage Two winner.