AVONDALE, Ariz. — It never rains in the desert — except it did Saturday.
A steady, light drizzle forced two red flag delays in NASCAR’s 14th annual DC Solar 200 Xfinity series race at ISM Speedway in Avondale, just outside Phoenix.
But when the rain finally cleared, the drivers ran the final 105 laps of the 200 lap race on the 1-mile oval under the green.
No cautions, no more red flags — even though a light rain returned on lap 165.
Monster Energy Cup driver Brad Keselowski, moonlighting for the day in the Xfinity series, beat Xfinity series racer and defending DC Solar champion Justin Allgaier to the checkered flag for the win.
“You have to give NASCAR credit for getting the race in,” said Keselowski. “You wouldn’t think you’d find a lot of rain in the desert but we found it.”
“After winning here last year, I obviously wanted to run well again today,” said Allgaier. “We had the lead on the long run and I’m bummed that we didn’t win but, all in all, it was just a solid day and I’d like to thanks the fans here at the track who hung in there with us today.”
Keselowski passed Kaz Grala to take the lead on lap 179.
Allgaier made the same move one lap later to take over second place and then the pair battled the final 20 laps with Keselowski holding off Allgaier to win by a half second.
The 1-2 finishers were also the 1-2 starters as Keselowski won the pole with Allgaier starting next to him on the front row.
It was Allgaier who was quickest at the start. He grabbed the lead on the first lap and held off Keselowski and the field for the first 10 laps.
On lap 11, Keselowski went low on turn 1 to move into first place and it was essentially a two-man battle the rest of the way.
Allgaier re-gained the lead on the 33rd lap and held on through lap 45, the end of Stage 1.
During the mandatory between-stage caution, the rain began falling harder and NASCAR officials pulled all the cars off the track under the first of two red flags.
The rain delay lasted one hour, 34 minutes and 57 seconds.
Cup driver Kyle Busch took the lead shortly after the re-start, holding it through lap 90, the end of the second stage.
Keselowski had to overcome a speeding penalty after he entered Pit Road to fast when he pulled off the track for gas and tires on lap 52. That sent him to the back of the field, although he quickly moved up through the pack.
“I’ve learned you can recover from your mistakes,” said Keselowski. “The track was definitely slick today, especially on Pit Road.”
The rain returned before the completion of stage 2.
The cars were pulled off the track on lap 88, leading to a 25 minute, 21 second delays.
When the cars were allowed back on the track, the race was run under a one-lap caution before a one-lap chase to the finish line to complete the stage.
Allgaier went back to the front on the stage 3 re-start with Keselowski hot on his back bumper.
Keselowski raced into the lead on lap 143 and while Grala moved into first when the leaders pitted on lap 171, Keselowski and Allgaier passed him on lap 179, setting up their battle to the finish line.
“I think for most of the race, Justin outdrove me – he really ran a great race but I had a really good car. I think the car was better than me today,” said Keselowski. “I haven’t had a lot of success at this track so I think this will help me for tomorrow.”
Allgaier held the lead for 76 laps, Keselowski for 66 and Busch for 39.
Busch finished third and Xfinity rookie Christopher Bell finished fourth.
“It was fun to race up there with Brad and Justin for the lead,” said Bell. “The rain didn’t change the track too much today. It was an enjoyable day in the car today. The last time we were here it was sunny and hot and 130 degrees in the car. Today with the clouds, lower temperatures and rain was much more comfortable.”
Jamie McMurray, Daniel Hemric, Matt Tifft, Cole Custer, Elliott Sadler and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top ten.
NASCAR returns to ISM Raceway Sunday for the Monster Cup 14th annual TicketGuardian 500.