Facing stiff competition from Kyle Busch and Ty Dillon, Brad Keselowski made a late surge down the stretch to earn a victory at the 2017 Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race Friday night.
Keselowski only led 34 out of 250 laps, but he made them count by taking his first lead near the end of the second stage to earn a bonus playoff point and then again with less than 15 laps to go in the race to take the checkered flag.
This marks the second-to-last race before the Xfinity Series playoffs begin in two weeks. The 12-driver playoff field includes William Byron, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed, Elliott Sadler, Brennan Poole and Daniel Hemric.
Here's how the top 10 looked when the checkered flag dropped at Richmond Raceway, via NASCAR.com:
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Kyle Busch
3. Ty Dillon
4. Daniel Hemric
5. Elliott Sadler
6. Christopher Bell
7. William Byron
8. Justin Allgaier
10. Brennan Poole
Dillon earned an extra bonus point for winning the first stage. His No. 3 car cruised past the line in the top spot with some action far behind him after Brandon Jones spun out when his car made contact with Ross Chastain.
.@TyDillon wins Stage 1, as his teammate Brandon Jones spins after contact with Ross Chastain! #NASCARonNBCSN #XfinitySeries https://t.co/6NS0sImnUQ2017-9-9 00:21:24
Dillon earned the point despite leading just 12 of the first 75 laps. He also had a good sense of humor before the race after qualifying 16th:
Ty Dillon @tydillon
Me and qualifying this year! https://t.co/3HnXlftI1A2017-9-8 22:20:34
Busch controlled the pace during the opening stage after winning the pole. He led 51 laps before falling back to sixth place at the end of the initial 75 laps.
The second stage was a similar story for Busch, who moved back into the top spot for 52 more laps, but was unable to close it out. Keselowski fought off a late charge from the No. 18 car to earn the point:
NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC
Brad @Keselowski wins Stage 2 at @RichmondRaceway! The race to the checkered starts NOW on @NBCSN! Stream: https://t.co/HuDsCntZoh https://t.co/RVQfDLWrP32017-9-9 00:56:55
It didn't take long after that for Busch, who led 182 of the 250 laps, to assert his will looking for the lead. The only shame is that he doesn't have enough races to qualify for the Xfinity Series playoffs because he's dominated this year with five victories and nine top-10 finishes in 10 races.
Once again, though, closing out became a difficult task for Busch on this night after Keselowski grabbed the lead with less than 15 laps to go and didn't relinquish it until the race ended.
Despite finishing fifth overall, Sadler got good news on this night. He clinched the regular-season title with 895 total points, which also gives him a 15-point playoff bonus.
XFINITY Racing @XFINITYRacing
That's something to be proud of. @Elliott_Sadler is the first #XFINITYSeries regular season champion. https://t.co/A4jxNC2Fw32017-9-9 01:51:13
Sadler earned the title without winning a race this season. He's finished in the top five on 10 occasions and the top 10 on 18 occasions in 25 races but has yet to taste victory lane.
Byron, who is in second place in the point standings, has fewer top-five (eight) and top-10 finishes (17) than Sadler, but his three wins already got him a total of 17 playoff points.
With one race remaining before the playoff begins and six spots still up for grabs, next week's Chicagoland 300 is going to be an intense atmosphere as drivers look to secure their chance at competing for a championship over the final two months of the season.