The Toyota/Save Mart 350 was full of different strategies in NASCAR’s first road-course race with stages.
Brad Keselowski stretched a green flag run as long as he could in hopes for a caution, but never got one as Sonoma ended on the longest green flag run in the race’s history.
After the eventual race-winner, Kevin Harvick, caught Keselowski and passed him for the lead, the No. 2 Team Penske Ford came into the pits for gas and tires to finish the race.
Keselowski came out of the pits on fresh tires in 11th-place and started his march back through the field in the final laps, passing Denny Hamlin on the final lap to take home the third-place finish.
“It was fun,” Keselowski said. “We had a really fast Elite Support Freightliner Ford, and man, when you have a car that great, you just ‑‑ you really enjoy every moment of it, and today was a day I really enjoyed. I had the slip‑up there and got into Clint (Bowyer) and that really stank, but other than that, just an incredible race car, and really a pleasure to drive.”
Keselowski was relying on a caution to come out in the closing laps that likely would have positioned him to contend for the win instead of finishing nine seconds behind Harvick in third.
“Yeah, it looked like (the late-race strategy) was putting us behind, but we had such a great long‑run car that it played back out for us, which was great,” Keselowski said. “In fact, I think we were hoping to catch a yellow and didn’t catch it. If we would have, I think that would have been the race‑winning move. But still, all in all, a great day for us.”
After a lot of comments about last week’s late-race debris caution, NASCAR used restraint and allowed a couple late spins to play out without quickly waving the yellow.
Keselowski also took to Twitter to appreciate that, even though it likely cost him a chance at the win.
Highlight of the day- that last drive from 11th to 3rd
Low light- contact with @ClintBowyer (sorry bro)
Notable- NASCAR restraint 😁👍🏻
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) June 25, 2017