RICHMOND, Va. — In the long run, Brad Keselowski knew he had the superior car.
And that’s exactly what Keselowski got – a long run to close Friday night’s Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Raceway.
On lap 235 of 250 of the NASCAR XFINITY Series race, Keselowski powered his No. 22 Team Penske Ford past the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch and pulled away to win by 3.008 seconds.
“When you can race with him (Busch), you know you’re having a good day, especially in this series,” Keselowski said after completing a spectacular celebratory burnout on the frontstretch. “When you race with Kyle, you race with the best. He and I may not always get along, but I have a lot of respect for his talent.”
After the second stage, which Keselowski won with a pass of Busch on the final circuit (Lap 150), the race ran without caution for the final 89 laps. Keselowski was driving a car with the new flange-fit composite body, which will be mandatory in the series by 2019.
“We weren’t quite where we wanted to be on the short runs, but good enough to be right there,” said Keselowski, who won for the second time this season, the fourth time at the .75-mile track and the 36th time in his career. “We just hung with him and got the long runs and we were able to pounce.
“That’s a testament to the team. (NBC Sports Analyst Jeff) Burton was asking me if it was the setup or the driver. I think it was both. I’m happy to get another win in this series. It’s a lot of fun and the first one in these new bodies. At least you know it isn’t an aero advantage. A great night at Richmond. I’m proud of my whole team.”
The cars of Keselowski and Busch were the clear class of the field, but behind them, series regular Elliott Sadler rolled home in fifth place and clinched the regular-season championship, along with the bonus of 15 playoff points that goes with it.
“We’re getting ourselves in playoff form,” said Sadler, who locked up the title with one race left in the regular season. “We’re fired up and ready to go.”
Making his last XFINITY start of the season, Busch had to settle for second.
“We just didn’t have long-run speed,” said Busch, who lost the lead for the final time in heavy traffic through Turns 1 and 2, after leading on five occasions for a total of 182 laps. “It”s tough to finish second, especially in the last go-round for the year.”
Ty Dillon ran third, followed by Daniel Hemric, Sadler, Christopher Bell, William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt’s No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet was the last car on the lead lap, thanks to the long green-flag run to finish the race — the same long run Keselowski was so glad to see.
Note: The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Matt Tifft was found have a lug nut violation in a post-race check. Tifft finished 13th in the race. Any potential penalties, typically a fine to the team’s crew chief, will be announced next week.