Brad Keselowski has already led more than 100 laps and was the halfway leader in tonight’s Toyota Owners 400 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The race started with a bang as Clint Bowyer sought to take the lead from pole sitter Kyle Larson on the first turn of the first lap – only to wind up spinning Larson out.
While Larson got started on trying to return to the front, Brad Keselowski led at the restart on Lap 8 and held the point until Harvick, the defending spring race winner at Richmond, assumed control at Lap 32.
Despite an odd run-in on the backstretch with Josh Wise a few laps later, Harvick would lead as the competition caution for tire wear came out at Lap 40.
Harvick was the first out of the pits and thus led the field back to green at Lap 47, only to have Keselowski reclaim P1 on Lap 55. The 2012 Cup Series champion would pace the field all the way to Lap 99, when the caution came out for debris on the frontstretch – and just a few laps after Bowyer pitted under green for what he thought was a tire going down.
Another round of stops ensued with Keselowski tumbling to sixth, while Jeff Gordon picked up the lead in time for the Lap 105 restart. Keselowski steadily rose back toward the front though and went past Harvick for second at Lap 135.
On Lap 158, rookie Cole Whitt began to slow down with right front tire issues. He was able to get off the track but upon his return, he left behind bits of burning rubber at the end of pit road, causing NASCAR to throw the caution at Lap 161.
At that point, Bowyer also pitted with his right-front wheel well on fire, which ultimately did enough damage to that area of his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota that the team opted to pull him behind the wall.
The pits opened on Lap 166 and Gordon and Keselowski maintained first and second respectively after their stops. Gordon, who sometimes struggles in restart situations, appeared to have pushed Keselowski behind him following the return to green at Lap 171.
But two laps later, Keselowski dusted Gordon on the backstretch to once again take the lead. Joey Logano briefly took second from Gordon as well, but the four-time Cup champion got the spot back before the halfway point.
At Lap 200, Keselowski held a lead of eight-tenths of a second on Gordon. Logano was third, followed by Harvick in fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth.
As for Larson, he’s made a steady climb after his Lap 1 disaster and sat 20th at halfway.