CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Brad Keselowski extended Jimmie Johnson’s losing streak to 102 races, holding off the seven-time NASCAR champion in overtime early Monday in the Coca-Cola 600.
Keselowski started in the back of the field, worked his way to the front at Charlotte Motor Speedway and gambled in not pitting when caution stopped Chase Elliott from winning with two laps remaining.
Elliott pitted and Keselowski led a train of eight cars that stayed on the track. He lined up in front of Alex Bowman on the inside line with Johnson — retiring from Cup racing at the end of the season — on the bottom ahead of Keselowski teammate Ryan Blaney.
Keselowski got the push to get into clean air and denied Johnson a victory. Keselowski celebrated as he usually does by waving a giant American flag out his window during his victory burnouts.
“I feel like I have thrown this race away a handful of times and I thought we were going to lose it today,” Keselowski said. “I have lost it the way Chase lost it and it really stinks. And today we finally won it that way.”
It is the first win for Keselowski this season, his first Coca-Cola 600 victory and the first win at this event for Ford since 2002.
Johnson had to settle for second in a Chevrolet, while Elliott, who had the victory snatched away just two laps from the finish, rallied to third for Hendrick to take two podium positions.
Elliott had a comfortable lead and was coasting to the win when Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron spun with a tire problem.
“That’s got to be a joke,” Elliott said over his radio.
Elliott was wrecked by Kyle Busch last week trying to race for the win at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday night.
The Sunday before Memorial Day is a supposed to be a smorgasbord of motorsports that begins with Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race on the calendar.
The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out the first part of F1′s schedule and, like IndyCar, it is still waiting to start its season. Roger Penske, the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has moved the Indy 500. It marks the first time since 1946 the 500 is not being run on Memorial Day weekend.
NASCAR was able to go forward for its third Cup event in seven days under a health plan approved by state officials that allowed the sport to resume after a 10-week hiatus. NASCAR ran three events in South Carolina, and the Coca-Cola 600 kicks off four consecutive days of racing at Charlotte.
A rain delay of nearly 90 minutes during the first stage of the race pushed the finish into Monday, but it still ended up just fine for Penske, the owner of Keselowski’s car.