Brad Keselowski believes Bristol Motor Speedway tests a race team like no other.
If so, Keselowski and his No. 2 Penske Racing team passed with flying colors.
Keselowski held off a charge by Matt Kenseth over the final 111 of 500 laps — slowed once by a late-race caution — to win Sunday’s Food City 500, his first Sprint Cup Series win of the season and second consecutive at the half-mile concrete oval.
“This place defines a race team. It asks so much of you — whether it’s just in practice, being lined up on pit road, dealing with the noise, the havoc that practice can be or the hot day of getting through tech (inspection), making those last adjustments or as a driver 500 laps in a bowl trying to keep your composure,” Keselowski said.
“This race track can really test a team. I think the teams that come out on top, whether it’s a driver or whatever, I think they show that they’ve got what it takes to overcome adversity.”
That was certainly the case Sunday.
Keselowski caught a piece of a seven-car pile-up on Lap 24, which brought an early end of the day for several favorites including Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.
But his team checked over his No. 2 Dodge on pit road, and he escaped the incident without any serious issues.
He made his way to the lead for the first time on Lap 217, passing Brian Vickers, who made an impressive showing in his debut with Michael Waltrip Racing.
By the final half of the race, it was clear Sunday’s outcome would likely be decided between Kenseth and Keselowski.
As the laps wound down, Keselowski was trying to hold off Kenseth, believing if Kenseth got by, he would not have a chance to pass him.
On Lap 478, Tony Stewart hit the wall in Turn 3, and it became decision-time for many teams. Some needed fuel, some tires and some — like Keselowski’s — were left wondering whether to pit.
In the end, four teams stayed out — Keselowski, Kenseth, Vickers and Martin Truex Jr.
While it appeared Kenseth might have a shot at the win with a restart with 17 laps remaining, Keselowski quickly put distance on Kenseth and was never seriously challenged before earning his fifth series win.
“We had a bit of body damage early on in the race, got it fixed,” Keselowski said. “Nobody panicked. It’s tough racing that requires so much discipline mixed in with some aggression, obviously.
“I told somebody before the race that this was the best race car I’ve ever had in Cup. It showed off today. Hopefully, we can have more cars like this and we’ll win more races and continue to move the needle forward.”