HAMPTON, Ga. — Call it the catbird seat.
Brad Keselowski took the white flag having led the previous 29 laps. But Joey Logano got a run down the backstretch off a Christopher Bell push to beat Keselowski to the line.
Instead of celebrating, Keselowski watched.
“We were right there,” Keselowski told FOX after the race. “I’m proud of my team and the effort, just not much we could do there.”
Keselowski took his first lead of the afternoon on Lap 209 when Aric Almirola blew a tire from the lead and collected Kyle Larson and others. Keselowski skillfully navigated past the carnage and controlled the restart on Lap 216.
With help of spotter TJ Majors, Keselowski worked the lead and blocked runs from both the top and the bottom. Logano, who dominantly led 140 of 260 laps, took a brief lead on Lap 227 before Keselowski snatched it back four circuits later.
In the closing laps, Keselowski led a trio of Toyota cars — Bell, Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin — in the top lane. But as Keselowski took the white flag, it became every driver for themselves.
Logano, who took the white in third, cut past Bell and cleared himself in the top lane. Bell pushed Logano down the backstretch and into the lead where Logano cruised ahead to the checkered flag.
Keselowski came across in second.
“The bottom row came with a huge run,” Keselowski said. “I don’t know how and I thought I had it blocked and Joey [Logano] just kept shaking and his car didn’t stall out. I couldn’t get the push down the back. I thought, ‘I’ll just get a push down the back,’ and [Bell] just hauled down there.
“The coolest thing about this is two veterans showed that you can run a race here side-by-side bump drafting and not wreck the field. It can happen if you race respectfully and I thought everybody did a great job.”
Logano and Keselowski spent the majority of the race near each other. Logano won Stage 1 and finished second in Stage 2 while Keselowski finished third in Stage 1 and ninth in Stage 2.
“We both race really, really hard,” Logano said. “So I felt like we were definitely going to duke it out. When I got to his outside, it was either he was going to wreck or we were going to just race and hopefully, he was going to get the big push on the bottom.
“I know he’s going to do anything to win a race. And rightfully so. I wouldn’t say our racing mentalities are very different.”
Keselowski has seen substantial improvement in his second season as a co-owner of RFK Racing. His average finishing position over the first five races improved from 19th in 2022 to 13.2 in 2023. He contended for the Daytona 500 win. Teammate Chris Buescher won at Bristol Motor Speedway last fall.
While disappointed with Sunday’s result, Keselowski acknowledged the growth of the team.
“It’s night and day from where we were a year ago, 100 percent,” Keselowski said. “You just keep running like this with good finishes and the wins will come.”