Keselowski watched race winner Wallace use a block to protect his lead, and felt he had a way to get around the 23XI driver before running out of time.
Instead, a four-car wreck on Lap 117 of the scheduled 188 laps at Talladega brought out a caution, locking Keselowski into second place.
Soon after the caution was displayed, the rain returned, and NASCAR halted the race. With not enough time to dry the track before darkness, the race was declared official since it had already passed the half-time point.
Wallace duly claimed his first career Cup Series win, leaving Keselowski as runner-up and lamenting his decision to delay an attempt to around Wallace for the lead.
“Gosh, if I would have known it was going to rain right then, I had a move I could have made and I was like, ‘No we’ve got five laps in the stage left, I don’t want to burn that move yet,’ ” Keselowski said.
“Then it rains and I kind of feel like I let one slip away here.
“We were really close to making a move on Bubba to win the stage and the race, but I didn’t need that rain. I needed another two or three laps.”
Keselowski had run well throughout the shortened race, leading 13 laps – second-most in the race to Kevin Harvick’s 16 – and continually put himself in position to contend for the lead.
Wallace had deftly blocked a Keselowski advance right before the final caution came out.
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, Toyota Camry McDonald’s and Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Monster Energy
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
“You never count out the Penske cars,” Wallace said. “We talk about them in our Monday and Tuesday meetings. Those guys make it work and there’s a reason why they win the races.
“Knowing we had to defend them. Freddie (Kraft, Wallace’s spotter) did a hell of a job on top of the roof. So proud of him. We just made the right moves and it worked out.”
Keselowski’s second-place finish may have stung but it still left him in a strong position heading into the final race of the second round of the playoffs next Sunday on the Charlotte Roval.
Keselowski is currently ranked fourth out of 12 drivers in the standings and 20 points above the cutoff line. The bottom four in the standings without a win will be eliminated from further playoff contention following the race at the Roval.
“All in all, it’s still a great day,” he said. “We scored a lot of stage points, which is really positive and put ourselves in a good position next week to go to the Roval.
“We put ourselves in position to not have to go to the Roval and have a ‘hero’ day. We can have just a solid day.”
Asked his initial thoughts on heading to the Roval next week – the only road course in the Cup playoffs – Keselowski said: “A tough race for us. Road courses have been really tough, but thankfully, we don’t have to go there and win.”