Drenched in beer and sporting sunglasses that complemented his swagger, Brad Keselowski celebrated going from last to first and winning the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway. Especially after he confidently said on Twitter earlier in the day, “I believe that we will win.”
As he revealed in victory lane, his confidence was more based in superstition.
“Last year, we started first. It didn’t go our way,” Keselowski said. “We were joking after the drawing (for position) Paul Wolfe, who usually does the drawings, he didn’t do it this year and we got last. And he said, ‘Look, this’ll be the year we win.'”
He said after the race he wasn’t “‘Babe Ruthing’ it by any means” when he said he’d win. He just thought he was due.
Keselowski took the lead from Chase Elliott on the final restart of the 75-lap exhibition event and held the lead largely unchallenged, aside from a final-lap charge from Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson — the latter resulting in a multi-car wreck — for the final 26 laps.
“It’s a great way to start the season with the Miller Lite Ford, and I’m happy for everyone on my team,” he said. “This is the first time I won anything in Speedweeks. I feel like I’ve choked them away. It’s nice to not choke this one away, Vince. Definitely, a good day and I’m really thankful for the team. Completely different package than what we’ve had here at Daytona ever before. Guys had to show up with a way different car and that’s a testament to everyone at Team Penske to work on it and do that. Good day, great start, two more to go.”
Joey Logano, Busch, Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five.
Austin Dillon led the field to the green flag at 3:25 p.m. He edged out Denny Hamlin to lead the first lap, but the outside line pushed Hamlin by Dillon exiting Turn 4 to take the lead on the second lap.
Everyone merged into the top lane for a few laps. But when Kyle Larson got loose trying to pass Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and spun on the apron, the single-car train broke up. Chase Elliott led the re-formed inside line back to the front, where he powered ahead of Hamlin exiting Turn 2 to take the lead on Lap 10.
Dillon worked his way back to the front and edged Elliott at the line to retake the lead on Lap 15. Elliott sliced under him exiting Turn 2 and slid up in front of him going down the backstretch to take back the lead on the 17th lap.
Joey Logano took the lead for a lap, on Lap 25, before he and all but four cars pitted prior to the final lap of the segment. Larson took the lead as the caution flew to end the segment.
Kurt Busch, attempting to go under Jamie McMurray in Turn 3 on Lap 35, hit the rear of the No. 1 car and sent him into the wall, setting up the run to the finish.