An empty fuel cell robbed Brian Keselowski of a chance to win the fred's 250 Saturday afternoon at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Keselowski (@KeselowskiBrian) was subbing for injured driver Austin Theriault and was in position to pull off a stunning upset at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Brian lined up third for the green-white checkered dash to the finish but ran out of fuel on lap 96 before taking the green flag. He was able to coast to pit road for a splash of gas to make it to the checkered flag but any chance of a good finish was gone. He was credited with 17th-place in the final rundown.
But the final finishing position doesn't tell the story of how well the driver of the Cooper Standard Ford F-150 performed at Talladega. Keselowski did a solid job in practice Friday and qualified well Saturday morning, earning the 11th-place starting position. He was running 10th in the lead draft when he made his first pit stop of the day on lap 14 during the first caution period but was penalized for speeding while exiting the pit lane.
Keselowski restarted 31st when the race went green on lap 18 and he promptly went to work climbing back through the field. Brian had patiently worked his way up to 14th at the time of the second yellow on lap 37. He pitted for fuel only on lap 40 and fast pit work by the Cooper Standard team moved him up to sixth place when the race went green on lap 43.
From there Keselowski ran at the front of the lead draft until the closing laps of the race. He moved up to third by lap 47 and picked off second place on lap 67. A round of green flag pit stops for the leaders began at the 70-lap mark. On lap 73 Keselowski made his scheduled stop for fuel only. Excellent pit work put Keselowski into the lead on lap 80 when the cycle of stops were complete.
He held the lead for the next 10 laps and through two caution periods. The third yellow slowed the race on lap 82 but Brian responded with a strong restart on lap 84 to keep the lead. The race was slowed three laps later by the fourth caution and the restart on lap 89 wasn't kind to Keselowski - in large part due to the huge push Christopher Bell gave Brandon Jones, a move that drew a penalty from NASCAR officials on lap 91.
Keselowski was shuffled back to third but appeared to catch a break on lap 93 in the form of the fifth caution. A multiple truck accident on the backstretch was the reason for the yellow (NASCAR also red flagged the race for 14 minutes for track cleanup), setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
Keselowski lined up third for the restart but didn't make it to the green flag. His truck slowed off Turn 2 and dropped to the apron of track, the victim of a dry fuel tank. He was able to coast back to the pit lane for a badly needed splash of gas to finish the race.