NASCAR Barometer: Brad Keselowski Wins Coca-Cola 600 in OT

NASCAR Barometer: Brad Keselowski Wins Coca-Cola 600 in OT

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Brad Keselowski earned his first Coca-Cola 600 victory Sunday night in NASCAR's third race in just over a week holding off Jimmie Johnson in an overtime finish. Keselowski's Penske Racing Ford was not the fastest in the field but making the right calls at the right time put him in position to claim the win. There was tremendous disappointment behind him as Chase Elliott again seemed destined to win until teammate William Byron spun and brought out a late caution. Elliott's choice to pit put him deep in the field on the final restart and he simply ran out of distance as Keselowski crossed under the checkered flag. Post-race inspection took Johnson out of the finishing order and promoted Elliott to a runner-up finish, however.

This Wednesday the teams will again return to the Charlotte oval in a 310-mile mid-week race. The distance won't be quite as long, which means teams won't have as much time to overcome any early mistakes. That could serve to push the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet teams to the front again. They were the class of the field throughout Sunday's race and only narrowly missed overcoming Keselowski. Fantasy owners should again expect long green-flag runs and look to which drivers were most consistent through Sunday's 600-mile odyssey.

UPGRADE

Brad Keselowski – Sunday's 600-mile race was Keselowski's second win at Charlotte and his second top-five there in the last three tries. He was generally quiet through the distance but found his way forward to have sight of

Brad Keselowski earned his first Coca-Cola 600 victory Sunday night in NASCAR's third race in just over a week holding off Jimmie Johnson in an overtime finish. Keselowski's Penske Racing Ford was not the fastest in the field but making the right calls at the right time put him in position to claim the win. There was tremendous disappointment behind him as Chase Elliott again seemed destined to win until teammate William Byron spun and brought out a late caution. Elliott's choice to pit put him deep in the field on the final restart and he simply ran out of distance as Keselowski crossed under the checkered flag. Post-race inspection took Johnson out of the finishing order and promoted Elliott to a runner-up finish, however.

This Wednesday the teams will again return to the Charlotte oval in a 310-mile mid-week race. The distance won't be quite as long, which means teams won't have as much time to overcome any early mistakes. That could serve to push the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet teams to the front again. They were the class of the field throughout Sunday's race and only narrowly missed overcoming Keselowski. Fantasy owners should again expect long green-flag runs and look to which drivers were most consistent through Sunday's 600-mile odyssey.

UPGRADE

Brad Keselowski – Sunday's 600-mile race was Keselowski's second win at Charlotte and his second top-five there in the last three tries. He was generally quiet through the distance but found his way forward to have sight of the lead in the final stage. He then made the right decision by avoiding pit road to stay out and hold off Jimmie Johnson for the victory in an overtime finish. Sunday's win allows him to join teammate Joey Logano with a spot in the playoffs, and now he can turn his attention for the rest of the season on perfecting his approach for a run at another series championship. Penske Fords may not always be the fastest, but they consistently capitalize on any opportunity to score wins and top finishes.

Chase Elliott – Sunday night should have been one of redemption for Elliott after being taken out of last Wednesday's Darlington race while aiming for the lead. He qualified up front for Sunday's marathon race at Charlotte and consistently raced inside the top five for the entire distance and looked certain to win before finishing second to Keselowski after opting to pit under the final caution. He led 38 laps in total and he walks away from yet another race knowing that he missed an opportunity to win. Elliott now sits sixth in the playoff standings as the highest-placed driver without a win. Fantasy owners shouldn't give up on him, though. Wednesday is another quick turnaround for Elliott to prove he can deliver the finish he deserves.

Alex Bowman – Bowman won both of the opening stages of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. He battled teammate Chase Elliott for the first stage and then cruised in the lead for most of the second. He led 164 laps in total Sunday evening after spending most of the second segment out front but went home with just a 19th-place finish despite being third for the final restart. After not pitting under the final caution he was unable to hold his car on the bottom, lost grip, and fell back to his ultimate finishing position. That place won't represent in the statistics what he accomplished on Sunday and fantasy owners would be wise to keep that in mind as they look to set their rosters for Wednesday's return to the circuit.

Joey Logano – Logano stayed out late in the third stage Sunday night and grabbed the segment win. It was his first stage win after previously picking up race wins in Las Vegas and Phoenix. He restarted the final stage in the top position after that segment win but slipped back at the end to finish 13th after getting loose on that stage restart and losing track position. He led 26 laps in the race and walks away with valuable playoff points to carry into the championship fight at the end of the season. Logano's only Charlotte win came in the fall of 2015. His second-place finish in last year's Coca-Cola 600 is his only top-five at the circuit in the last six visits.

Ryan Blaney – Charlotte hasn't been the best track for Blaney, and he has had a rough go of 2020 so far with terrible luck taking him out of chances to win. Things took a step toward getting better Sunday night when he came from the 26th starting position to finish third. That finish was just his second top-10 at the track in nine career tries and his first of 2020 since February's Daytona 500. Both of Blaney's teammates have victories so far this season and Blaney is hungry to get his, too. He gets another shot at Charlotte on Wednesday and will be working hard to make sure he has permanently put his early-season misfortunes in the rearview mirror.

DOWNGRADE

Jimmie Johnson – Sunday was another disappointing outcome for Johnson despite finishing second on track to winner Brad Keselowski. The veteran qualified well and raced inside the top 10 through to the finish in an impressive evening as he seeks to get back into Victory Lane only for the effort to be wiped out by NASCAR after the car failed post-race inspection. The frustration of not converting speed into results continues building for the former champion and the mistakes being made need to be fixed. The car's rear alignment was the culprit Sunday night and the team will have to work hard to ensure a mistake like that doesn't wipe out their results again. Once the team overcomes these mistakes, we should see Johnson leverage the speed we know he has to start piling up the top finishes.

Denny Hamlin – After leaving Darlington with his second win of the season Hamlin encountered trouble early in Charlotte. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver lost ballast from the car under the pace laps and was on pit road trying to replace it as the field took the green flag. By the time the competition caution arrived on lap 20 Hamlin was already eight laps behind and any hopes of salvaging a decent finish were long gone. Staying in the race allowed him to make up a few positions but 29th was as high as he could climb before distance ran out with him still sitting seven laps behind. In 28 career Cup starts at the Charlotte oval Hamlin still searches for his first victory.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer crashed hard out of Sunday night's race just before the finish of the first stage. A suspension failure was the culprit and the contact was severe with Bowyer's race coming to a grinding halt against the outside wall. With his 39th-place finish from Sunday Bowyer has now gone 12 consecutive races at Charlotte without a top-10 finish. While Bowyer wasn't high on the radar from a fantasy perspective, he should have been able to achieve more than a DNF. Fantasy owners shouldn't have higher expectations for Wednesday either, though. Charlotte has not been one of Bowyer's better tracks recently Bowyer should be looking to finish on Wednesday, and if all goes well a top-10 may represent his upside potential.

Matt Kenseth – Kenseth was dealt a drive-through penalty about halfway through the second stage for speeding on pit road. The penalty dropped him two laps behind the lead when he returned to the track. It was a costly mistake for the veteran still finding his footing since returning to the series three races ago in Darlington and a spin later ended his hopes for a decent finish. Kenseth is a two-time Charlotte winner, and he scored a top-10 in his first race back in the series. He has not been lacking for speed, but he still needs a bit more coordination and experience with his team to gain more consistency. This week's return to Charlotte on Wednesday will give them the opportunity to find it.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Tyler Reddick – Fantasy players should have expected Reddick to have another good showing in Charlotte after his first series top-10 finish in Darlington last week. Reddick backed up that confidence with his second top 10 Sunday night in Charlotte where he finished eighth after starting fifth. The effort was unique considering how long the race was and the fact that Reddick ran up front through the entire distance. Richard Childress Racing has a habit of running well in the Coca-Cola 600 and Reddick took advantage of that knowledge to continue knocking on the door of the playoff positions. With the Xfinity series victory at the circuit in 2019 and a top-10 in his first Cup outing at the circuit, he should be one to watch Wednesday night for fantasy players.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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