CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
He led the first 48 laps, stopped for gas and tires, then led 51 more laps before NASCAR called its first caution of the race, for debris. In fact, of the nine cautions on Sunday, five of them were for debris.
And one of them may have set the tone for the finish that had everyone talking on Monday.
Keselowski was leading with Johnson in third when NASCAR called caution for debris 58 laps from the scheduled finish and teams in various stages of fuel-mileage strategy. Keselowski went on to pit road as the leader, but locked up his brakes and slid deep into his stall, a miscue that dropped him to eighth when he got back onto the track.
Cautions breed cautions, and there were three more ahead. It set the sequence for Keselowski to take two tires during the final pit stops when everyone else took four tires so he could reclaim the lead, then try to hold off the field over those three final restarts.
After successfully getting past Busch on the first restart, Johnson cried foul and argued Keselowski had gone too early.
“Come on, NASCAR,” Johnson complained over his radio. “Look at the tape.”
Ironically, it was Johnson who many believe went early on the third and final restart, the one that got him past Keselowski for the victory. But NASCAR made no call in either case, reiterating Monday neither case warranted a penalty.
Keselowski was ticked about something after the race, when he radioed to his Penske Racing crew: “Good job everybody. Can’t do anything about it when somebody is handed the race time after time.”
Hard to tell if he meant the debris caution that changed his strategy or the restart that Johnson won, because he was softer in his post-race interviews.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart and Jimmie did a great job on the last one,” he said. “I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race and it didn’t seem right to wreck him.”