NASCAR Winner Spotlight: Brad Keselowski overcomes stomach virus, wins at Atlanta

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 24: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Autotrader Ford (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 24: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Autotrader Ford (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Brad Keselowski battled illness en route to earning his victory in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

If sickness couldn’t stop Brad Keselowski from winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. couldn’t, either.

The driver of the #2 Team Penske Ford began the race weekend feeling under the weather with a stomach virus. Keselowski missed part of Saturday’s final practice session due to his illness and had to split time with Team Penske Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric during this session.

Cindric was once again at the track Sunday afternoon on standby in case Keselowski was unable to complete the full 325-lap, 500-mile event at the four-turn, 1.54-mile (2.478-kilometer) high-banked Atlanta Motor Speedway oval in Hampton, Georgia.

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But Cindric’s help was not needed. After starting the race in 19th place, Keselowski spent the day piloting his Autotrader-sponsored #2 Ford through the field before leading 33 laps and taking the checkered flag for the 28th time in his Cup Series career.

But Keselowski did not get to enjoy a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive to earn his first victory of the 2019 season. He spent the last few laps of the race watching the #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. become larger and larger in his rearview mirror.

Truex Jr. challenged Keselowski for the lead, coming very close to his rear bumper on more than once occasion. With too few laps remaining, however, Truex Jr. was not close enough to make a pass, and Keselowski took the checkered flag just 0.218 seconds ahead of Truex Jr. to earn his second career Cup Series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway and his second Cup Series victory at the track in the last three seasons.

With his victory, Keselowski also locked himself into the 2019 Cup Series playoffs. He earned 40 points for his victory and moved from ninth to sixth place in the championship standings.

Keselowski’s victory was also his 60th overall win for Team Penske, making him the winningest driver in team history. 1972 Indianapolis 500 champion Mark Donohue previously held this title with 59 victories.

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Sunday’s victory is Brad Keselowski’s first victory since he won the round of 16 playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this past September. Coincidentally, NASCAR is scheduled to return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube. The 267-lap race is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 3, and live coverage of it is set to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.