BK Matches Career-Best P5 Finish in Coca-Cola 600

In a race typically known for carnage and mechanical failure, the Coca-Cola 600 instead brought a new meaning NASCAR’s green initiative. Brad Keselowski came up fifth in Sunday night’s race, which featured 381 laps of green-flag racing and just four cautions.

The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion was strong on long runs, but no one could touch the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr., which paced the field for 392 laps en route to his first victory of the season.

“We fought as hard as we could with the Miller Lite Ford and had a decent day. Of course, it wasn’t the win we want but we ran up front the whole race,” he said after the checkers flew. “That Furniture Row team has had some really good speed and they showed it today. Congrats to Martin and his team.”

2016 NASCAR Charlotte 600

Starting fifth, Brad didn’t have a lot of work cut out to make his point at the top of the leaderboard. When the lap 25 competition caution rolled around, the No. 2 pitted from fifth to remedy his tight off center and free in the corner condition as the crew gained him a position.

A restart shortly after saw BK drop two spots, settling in sixth. Within 15 laps, spotter Joey Meier told his driver that other than Truex, he was running the fastest laps. Brad proved that as he passed Kevin Harvick on lap 68, and Denny Hamlin on lap 76. Two laps later, routine pit stops began where crew chief Paul Wolfe’s group put four fresh Goodyear Eagles on, along with a chassis adjustment and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel.

BK cycled back out to fifth and quickly got back into the long run rhythm. He fought off Kyle Larson to keep P5, then passed teammate Joey Logano and Hamlin up to third before the first of two minor wrecks of the day: a spin by Brian Scott.

“Takes a while to get going, but you can see what happens when it does,” BK said, referencing his long-run strength.

2016 NASCAR Charlotte 600

Pitting from third, Wolfe once again put four sticker tires on the Deuce. The 12.2-second pit stop was fast, but not quick enough as the Miller Lite machine lined up for a fifth place restart.

Brad continued to relay information to his team, identifying the center of turns three and four as his weak spots. Wolfe addressed that on the next green flag pit stop come lap 166. And then, right before the next round of stops were scheduled to commence, Jeffrey Earnhardt smacked the wall to bring out a caution. The lap 203 pit stop saw Kes drop to seventh, but he once again had four fresh Eagles on his car.

“We were just looking for a break,” Brad said of his night. “If we could’ve gotten those long runs, we could’ve put something together, but it took a really, really long run—almost until we were out of gas—before we could really get rolling.”

A lap 339 debris caution was the final time the field bunched up that evening, where Brad pitted at 13.9 seconds, maintaining his fourth place positioning. The lack of short-run speed bit the No. 2 team one more time, as BK slid back to sixth on the final restart.

The race went green to the finish. Right on cue, the White Lite hit its stride late in the run. Brad passed Kurt Busch back for fifth place with 12 laps to go. But before he could hunt down Hamlin in fourth, the checkered flag flew.

“I’m proud of our effort, proud of the fans who stick around for Memorial Day,” BK said. “It’s a lot of racing. We’re glad you’re watching. Now, going spend Monday remembering what the holiday’s all about.”

The annual May Charlotte Motor Speedway race was purely dominated by Truex, who led the most miles in a Sprint Cup race ever. Meanwhile, Brad matched his career-best Coca-Cola 600 finish in P5. Grabbing his fourth Top 5 and his eighth Top 10 of the year, Brad moved into a tie for third with Carl Edwards on the Chase Grid. He and Edwards are tied for fifth in pure points.

Coming off his first win of the season, Truex could be the man to beat next week at Pocono Raceway, where he captured his most previous win last June. Brad will be eying his second Tricky Triangle triumph as he looks to prevent Truex from marking off back-to-back wins.

The Axalta 400 airs on FOX Sports 1 at 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, June 5.

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