LONG POND, Pa. — With 16 laps to go, it appeared that Brad Keselowski’s shot at a clean sweep of the Pocono Green 250 was over, after he was shoved out of the way by Elliott Sadler on a late restart.
But an angry driver is a hard driver to beat, and Keselowski charged his way back from 12th to ultimately make a last-lap pass of defending Pocono XFINITY winner Kyle Larson, winning the 35th race of his XFINITY career.
After Keselowski swept the first two stages of Saturday’s race, the final stage kicked off with 44 laps to go and saw polesitter Kyle Benjamin charge to Keselowski’s inside, taking the top spot away in an impressive surge.
The advantage held for the young rookie for five laps, before Keselowski came back to Benjamin’s inside on the Long Pond straightaway and reclaimed the lead with 39 circuits remaining.
But two laps later, the final green-flag cycle of pit stops kicked off when first Keselowski, and then Benjamin pulled pitside.
Ultimately it was Justin Allgaier who inherited the top spot with 34 laps left, hoping to stretch his fuel if the race saw a few late-race cautions prior to the finish.
But all the strategy got thrown into turmoil with 22 to go, when Brandon Jones had a left-rear tire violently explode, sending him careening into the outside wall on the frontstretch and setting the stage for a crazy sprint to the checkered flag.
While Allgaier and company pitted for their last set of tires and fuel, Keselowski and Cole Custer restarted on the front row for a restart with 16 laps to go that appeared to pave Larson’s path to victory.
When the green flag flew, Keselowski got a massive shove down towards turn one by points leader Elliott Sadler, who restarted third and had his own aspirations at victory.
The shot was so much so that Keselowski washed out of the groove in Turn 1, falling back quickly on the outside lane as Sadler and Larson shot by into first and second.
Moments later, Larson was pressuring Sadler for the lead, making the pass on entry to Turn 3 and running away as Keselowski worked two and three-wide to try and find his way back forward.
In five laps, Keselowski passed eight cars and found himself in fourth, 2.5 seconds back of Larson with 11 laps to work with.
Though it took him two more trips around the tri-oval, Keselowski passed Sadler for third in Turn 3 coming to eight to go and made quick work of bearing down on the front duo of Larson and Allgaier.
He dispatched Allgaier for second with four to go, moving in on Larson as the latter tried to keep dirty air on Keselowski’s nose.
But Keselowski had one final trick up his sleeve, downshifting into Turn 1 on the final lap to get a run off the exit of the corner, pulling up to Larson’s quarterpanel on the Long Pond straightaway, surging past coming up to the ‘Tunnel Turn’ and never looking back.
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