Brad Keselowski early on Monday beat Jimmie Johnson in the overtime finish of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.
Keselowski added to his Southern 500, Bristol night race and Brickyard 400 wins, while Johnson, who had a shot at snapping his three-year losing streak, instead extended it to 102 consecutive races.
Then, Johnson’s car failed the after-race inspection and NASCAR threw out his runner-up finish.
All that action took place in the the final seven laps of the longest race in NASCAR history.
Chase Elliott was cruising toward victory with two laps remaining in the 600 when a caution sent the race to overtime.
The five additional laps — another 12km — pushed the longest event on the NASCAR calendar into a true Memorial Day finale.
A Daytona 500 victory is the only crown jewel race that Keselowski is missing on his resume.
The Coca-Cola 600 was the 31st win of his career — tied for 26th on the all-time list — but Keselowski said on Monday that he does not know where he stands right now.
“I know winning never hurts. I wish I had more news, but I don’t,” Keselowski said. “I hope to continue to compete at a very high level and be able to win races for a long time.”
“We’ve got a race win at a major on a team that’s really just starting to click together,” Keselowski added. “This team has a lot of potential. I hope that I get to take and make something of that for years to come, but it’s not all up to me. A lot of things have to come together, whether it’s sponsors or whatnot, management things. I hope it does because this is my 30th win at the Cup level with Team Penske. I think I got another 30 left in me. I’d like to have the chance at that.”
Johnson twice raced for the lead at Charlotte, including on the overtime restart when he lined up next to Keselowski, but he came up short both times as the seven-time NASCAR champion failed to snap a winless streak that dates to Dover in June 2017.
Johnson is retiring from full-time competition at the end of the season and he wound up crossing the finish line second in what was likely his final Coca-Cola 600.
Johnson said his losing streak never entered his mind during the push for the win.
“Second is OK,” Johnson said. “I’m very proud of the effort we’re putting in — but second stinks. It’s tough being this close to the victory lane, but we’re knocking on the door and we’ll get there.”
The next blow came two hours after the race when NASCAR said that his Chevrolet failed the post-race inspection.
Crew chief Cliff Daniels said that the car not meeting rear alignment measurements after the race could be attributed to a broken part, while NASCAR said it has built-in tolerances “for parts that move, but if parts break, the number is the number.”
Although Johnson has just an eighth-place finish to show for the first three races since NASCAR resumed, the No. 48 team has shown promise.
He was leading when he crashed in the first race back at Darlington Raceway and he technically finished second at Charlotte before the disqualification knocked him to last.
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