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NASCAR: No speeding pays off for Keselowski at Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Brad Keselowski gave Ford its second win two races into the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Shanna Lockwood / USA Today Sports Brad Keselowski leads Kyle Larson (42) around turn four during the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. Keselowski won the race.
Shanna Lockwood / USA Today Sports Brad Keselowski leads Kyle Larson (42) around turn four during the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. Keselowski won the race.

HAMPTON, Ga. - Brad Keselowski gave Ford its second win two races into the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"Atlanta has always been one of those old-school race tracks. Look at victory lane; we're out here on the frontstretch," Keselowski said. "It feels old-school, a great place to win, a track I haven't won at before. Gosh darn it, it feels good."

Kyle Larson finished second. Matt Kenseth overcame two pit-road speeding penalties to finish third, and Kasey Kahne was fourth. Chase Elliott also overcame a speeding penalty to round out the top five.

Keselowski wasn't among the eight drivers nabbed for speeding on pit road throughout the race, but his day wasn't without its hiccups, either. He got off pit road first during a caution with 63 laps to go, but he had to head down pit road again before the race restarted because of a loose wheel.

"We had a lot of adversity today; there's no doubt about that," Keselowski said. "These races aren't easy. They're 500 miles, and a lot can happen, and when you think you've got it, they slip away. I know how it goes."

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Kevin Harvick dominated much of the race, leading 293 of the 325 laps, but he wound up with his own speeding penalty, and his came too late in the race to completely recover. He wound up ninth.

"I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don't need to make and beat yourself, and then, you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach," Harvick said. "That part is hard for me to swallow. The good part about it is our Ford has been really fast. We didn't know what we were going to have when we got here, and we had a great weekend the whole time. One way or another, I have figured out how to lose races here at Atlanta after being so dominant. We will pick 'em up and start again next week."

Harvick's dominance resulted in wins in both the first and second 85-lap stages of the race.

At the end of stage two, Elliott, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and Larson were second through fifth, respectively.

Keselowski was forced onto pit road for an unscheduled pit stop on lap 117 because of a tire issue. After Keselowski pitted, other drivers inside their fuel windows for the second stage opted to go ahead and make scheduled stops.

Harvick waited 10 more laps before pitting, and the extra 10 laps Keselowski ran on newer tires resulted in a 10-second lead for Keselowski.

Then Harvick, with 10 fewer laps on his tires, cut into Keselowski's lead and retook the top spot on lap 142. When Harvick retook the lead, Keselowski returned to pit road.

"We know the deal; we know that this isn't going to be easy," Keselowski said. "You have to keep your head down and keep fighting at all times, and that's what we did."

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Like Keselowski, Denny Hamlin also made an extra stop during the second stage. Hamlin's second stop was for a vibration, and after pitting, he reported to his team that he thought he had a broken track-bar mount.

Harvick led all but three laps of the first 85 laps after starting the race from the pole. After cycling to second and third behind Harvick after a cycle of green-flag pit stops that started around lap 35, Keselowski and Elliott maintained those positions to finish the opening stage in the top three.

A handful of drivers, including Ryan Blaney, A.J. Allmendinger, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon made second pit stops during the first stage, opting to split the stage into thirds. With the extra green-flag stops, they wound up off the lead lap.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made multiple stops, but not by choice. He was assessed a pit road speeding penalty during the first round of stops, and on lap 64, he made an unscheduled stop for a flat tire.

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