Written by Adrian Beecher
Hampton, GA- After battling all day, opportunity showed itself for Brad Keselowski at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, and waste the opportunity he did not.
Kevin Harvick started on the pole and dominated throughout the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, it looked as if he was a lock for victory. Then lap 311 of 325 came, and after suffering a speeding penalty on pit road, leading 292 of the laps in the race to this point and winning stage one, and two didn't matter anymore all that much regarding victory.
The penalty forced Harvick to begin the restart in the back of the field. Now with the fastest car on the track at the back of the pack and just 14 laps to go, it set up a shootout for the win.
The top 3 in the restart was Kyle Larson out in front, then Matt Kenseth second, and Brad Keselowski in third. Larson maintained the lead on the restart. However, Kenseth was quickly overtaken by Keselowski.
So there it was, Keselowski chasing down Larson as they raced for what could be the last ever win on the current Atlanta Motor Speedway track surface. Larson said after the race that at the time he already knew his own weakness and was trying to find ways to seal off passing lanes for Keselowski.
"I'd spent a lot of time around him throughout the race, especially on the short runs he was better than I was, and he would always pass me in 1 and 2. I knew I was going to have to try and take his line away. I tried a few times, and he finally kind of guessed where I was going right one lap and got to my inside." said Larson of Keselowski.
After Keselowski had made the pass on lap 319, it was a mad dash for the finish with Brad slowly pulling away from Larson. In the end, it was a Keselowski in the No. 2 Autotrader Ford by 0.564 seconds, claiming the 2017 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 title.
As Keselowski paused ahead of his victory burnout, a crew member ran out an American Flag for the 33-year-old. Brad proceeded to burnout with the Red, White, and Blue proudly flying outside his driver window. He then drove into victory lane that had been laid out on the front stretch of the speedway with droves of fans on the track awaiting his arrival to claim his prize.
That prize, a trophy that truly embodies the American spirit, in a race dedicated to helping those that have given the ultimate sacrifice for this great Nation. With the base being a slick tire that represents the passion of veteran for the sport, the word's "Fueling Their Dream'" representing the spirit of the sponsor's dedication to give back to veterans. Also, all five branches are visible atop the base, two wings representing freedom coming together to form a "v" for victorious in the middle, the folded flag is in the middle of the wings as ultimate reminder of the sacrifice so many have given to make this nation what it is.
What brings the trophy all together is a replica barrel of an M61 "Vulcan" Cannon, a weapon that has been used in countless military engagements by US Forces since Vietnam. Thus proving to be a vital asset to protecting freedom.
Keselowski was presented the trophy by Major Don Rooney, the founder, and CEO of the Fold of Honor organization, alongside QuikTrip CEO Chet Cadieux. A moment that is sure to stay with Keselowski for many years to come as Major Rooney told Keselowski "This is the most patriotic trophy in all of NASCAR."
The military ties to Brad are well outlined and seemed fit in his winning. As revealed during the Fox broadcast and later addressed by a reporter post race, Keselowski confirmed he had joining the military as a potential backup plan to racing.
"You never know in this life and in this career where it's going to take you. I always wanted to be a racer, but you never knew, at least I never knew how it was going to play out, but I knew I probably wasn't going to be anything normal, and that was‑‑ 8:00 to 5:00 isn't really for me, so those type of things have always intrigued, and that would have certainly been a route, but I'm glad to be a race car driver and glad to have the opportunities I have to drive for a team that's world class where we can win races year over year and contend like we have here today and to be able to have these amazing opportunities in my life. "
Keselowski also reiterated his undying support the US Military and his personal connection to the cause.
"I don't really like to compare what I do to those that are in the military because they've made and continue to make incredible sacrifices and put their life out on the line. But I have tremendous respect for those that do. Our country is based on those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. I will always have respect for them. I've got a lot of family that either has served or is serving, and wishing them the best along with everyone else."
It was the 22nd career victory for Keselowski and put him in the victory lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time. He now sits 3rd in points with 84 and 5 total playoff points. Kevin Harvick's stage 1 and 2 victories and most laps led did, in the end, help him, putting him atop the points standings with 90 points and 3 total playoff points.
Next up, its week 3 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in a trip out west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Kobalt 400.
Written by Adrian Beecher
Hampton, GA - Kevin Harvick continued his domination, winning stage 2 after winning stage 1 after starting at the pole. Other cars that led during stage two were Jimmy Johnson and Brad Keselowski.
It was another clean 85 laps with the only cautions coming at the end of the stage. The long stretch of racing led to just 18 cars remaining on the lead lap.
As far as cars that are out of the race, Denny Hamlin in the 11 and Cody Ware in the 51 went to the garage to get some work done. Ware has officially been marked as out of the race, while Hamlin is the back of the garage trying to fix a broken track bar issue.
Your top 3 after stage 2 is as follows.
1.) Kevin Harvick
2.) Chase Elliott
3.) Ryan Newman
Written by Adrian Beecher
Kevin Harvick started on the pole and was able to maintain his lead throughout most of the first stage of the race. Ryan Newman was the only other leader and he led 3 laps during stage 1.
There were no cautions during the first stage. However, Dale Earnhardt Jr. caught a flat tire on lap 70 in turn 3. He was able to save his car by controlling it coming into pit lane preventing a tail spin as he slowed the car down.
Other points of note, the 51 of Cody Wake, who made his Cup Series debut today, was very slow to start the race. He was forced to get some early work on his car. This led to him going down 35 laps.
After stage 1, there were only 17 cars on the lead lap. After Harvick in first it was Brad Keselewski in 2nd, in 3rd was Chase Elliott, 4th was Martin Truex Jr. and finishing out the top 5 was Joey Logango.
Written By: Kyle Roberts
On March 5, the Folds of Honor will take place at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and what an exciting race it will be. There are lots of young faces in the Monster Energy Cup Series that are giving the veterans a nice challenge to start off this season.
There is a buildup of expectation for this year’s race. Although last year Jimmie Johnson led the pack for a good amount of the race, there was never a guarantee he would pull off the victory. On the very last lap of last year’s Quiktrip 500 there was a four-car crash that mixed up the field at the finish. The race ended with Jimmie Johnson winning, and Dale Earnhardt Jr following close behind and Kyle and Kurt Busch were 3rd and 4th.
Last years Fold of Honor QuikTrip 500 did not disappoint, and its safe to say this year looks to be just as, if not more exciting. There are a few things to look out for when watching and enjoying the Quiktrip.
Firstly, can Jimmie Johnson pull off his fifth Quiktrip victory? This would also be his 3rd straight victory in Atlanta. Johnson will be looking for a strong finish this weekend after failing to finish in the top 10 in Daytona last week starting the season. Still, Jimmie Johnson is one of the favorites to pull out in front on March 5th.
Another driver to keep your eyes on is Kurt Busch and boy he has looked good so far this season. Busch won the Daytona 500 with style as he pulled it off with a last lap pass after never previously leading the pack before that. Busch passed Kyle Larson on the first turn of the final lap and pulled off the victory.
If Kurt Busch can keep his momentum up, he is bound to do well at the Quiktrip. Busch won the Folds of Honor race back in 2002 and is trying to add another win on this track.
Young drivers like Chase Elliot, Ryan Blaney, and Kyle Larson are also racing well this season, and it will be interesting how they finish in this race.
Larson raced very well at Daytona, and he was leading the race until he ran out of gas and got passed by Busch on the final lap. Larson will be careful not to make the same mistake this time around and I like his chances to finish high in this race.
Chase Elliot and Ryan Blaney are also trying to make names for themselves this season and will look to capture their first win of the season. Although it is early, look for both of these drivers to be fighting for that top spot. Elliot finished 8th in this race last year, and Blaney finished 2nd at Daytona.
Will any of these drivers end up at the top? We will have to wait for March 5th to find out but this race is going to be one to watch, and I expect Atlanta Motor Speedway to be packed for this one.
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