Stenhouse Jr., after early exit, bristles at Keselowski’s late-race shove

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Brad Keselowski was everywhere this weekend in Florida. At the front of the field in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel race, running point for large portions of Sunday’s Daytona 500 and, to be sure, in the headlines by the end of Sunday night.

Keselowski powered his No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford to a ninth-place result in Sunday’s Great American Race, his first official start as a driver/owner. He led more laps than any other driver (67), but it was a pair of spins instigated by Keselowski’s pushing that had his peers talking.

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The second, late-race incident drew a bit of a bristling response from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., whose race ended early and in agonizing fashion. Stenhouse led the field to green on a Lap 195 (of 200) restart and was running in the top five when he spun and smacked the wall following a hard push from Keselowski. That rejumbled the field and ultimately led to rookie Austin Cindric holding point on a green-white-checkered finish in NASCAR Overtime to win in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

“I had position all day really and felt like we were really pushing people at the right time,” Stenhouse Jr. told FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass. “There were definitely spots on the race track you didn’t want to push or get pushed. The 6 (of Keselowski) I guess found that out a couple times today.”

The previous instance Stenhouse referenced occurred on Lap 41 and looked similar. Keselowski was giving Harrison Burton a healthy shove on the top line, which Burton led. The No. 6’s big push of the No. 21, though, ended with Burton spinning down into William Byron and collecting Byron’s No. 24, plus the cars of race favorite Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and others.

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“I guess he (Keselowski) just tried to wreck everybody in the field until he won,” Stenhouse said. “I guess his other car won that he gave up. So kudos to him.”

“I thought we all pushed really good,” Stenhouse added, “you just can’t push on the exit of a corner. He did it off of Turn 2 to the 21 (of Burton) there and then off of (Turn) 4 for me. Just the wrong place.”

Keselowski restarted fourth on the green-white-checkered restart, lined up directly behind the No. 2 Ford he drove previously for 12 seasons. He helped shove Cindric to the lead and, when Cindric jumped down to the bottom lane, Keselowski was the leader up top and running second.

Ryan Blaney stayed tight on Cindric’s bumper, though, and the No. 2 stayed on the point until the checkered flag. Keselowski, meanwhile, dropped from third to ninth on the final push to the line when he was shuffled out of the top line and into the middle.

“Whenever somebody spins out obviously there’s somebody over-aggressive, but in the moment I didn’t,” Keselowski said when asked if he felt like he was overly aggressive. “… I was just pushing. We weren’t even all the way up to speed, so I feel like it was a crazy time to be pushing, but obviously, the results say different.

“I thought down the backstretch we were gonna win the race, and just the 12 (of Blaney) and the 2 got a really good push from (Bubba Wallace) and basically cleared our lane and then our lane kind of broke up there at the end. It was really close, just green-white-checkers.”