Brad Keselowski came from nowhere to win his third race of the season at Kansas Speedway back in May.
Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 wasn’t nearly as kind. The 2012 NASCAR champion started the day above the cut line in the playoff elimination race. His 19th-place showing Sunday, combined with Chase Elliott’s runner-up finish, dropped Keselowski below the line and spelled the end of his hopes for a championship in 2019.
Keselowski was in precarious position, but still in contention, when a caution came out with 14 laps to go. That was the beginning of a chain of events that ultimately didn’t break in Keselowski’s favor.
The final straw might have been the damage his No. 2 car received in an incident during the first overtime.
The race went to a second overtime because leader Denny Hamlin and eventual race winner didn’t cross the start-finish line before the caution came out. When the race restarted, Keselowski was unable to hold his position.
Keselowski didn’t know the extent of the damage to his car and wasn’t willing to point to it as a contributing factor immediately after the race. But his disappointment was evident.
“We didn’t make it. I pushed as hard as I knew how. We didn’t do quite good enough on the last restart, and that was it,” Keselowski said. “We clawed as hard as we could. There were times we looked like we were going to be fine, there were times we didn’t, and we didn’t.”
Emporia, Kansas native Clint Bowyer talked on the pre-race show about watching the first race at Kansas Speedway from the roof of an RV on the infield. He came into Sunday knowing he’d need a win at has adopted home track to advance to the Round of 8.
He finished eighth and was never really a factor at the front of the field.
“We had a decent car. We’ve been struggling at these mile-and-a-half tracks all year long and we tried a different direction this weekend, to be honest with you,” Bowyer said. “I think it has promise. By no means are we where we wanted to be.”
Sunday was Bowyer’s 23rd start at Kansas Speedway. He’s still looking for that elusive first victory her, although he does have eight top-10 finishes to his credit.
Bowyer’s best chance to make things interesting came at the end of Stage 1. He was on the front row for a two-lap shootout to the end of the stage and had a prime chance to pick up valuable points.
But his car was damaged on the restart and he tumbled all the way back to 21st place by the end of the stage.
William Byron and Alex Bowman were the other two drivers eliminated from playoff contention Sunday.