Next Sprint Cup Series Race * Indianapolis Motor Speedway * Indianapolis, Indiana * Sunday, July 27, 2014
Next Nationwide Series Race * Indianapolis Motor Speedway * Indianapolis, Indiana * Saturday, July 26, 2014
Next Camping World Truck Series Race * Eldora Speedway * Rossburg, Ohio * Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Rookie Chase Elliott Wins Third Race Of The Season At Chicagoland Speedway
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Chase Elliott Lights Up The Tires
Accomplishing feats uncharacteristic for a rookie, Chase Elliott won again, leading 85 of 200 laps en route to his third win of the season in Saturday's EnjoyIllinois.com 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Elliott took the lead for the fourth and final time on Lap 177 and held on for the final 23 laps, winning by 1.7 seconds. The NNS Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner ties Kyle Busch for most wins in the series thus far this season, each with three visits to Victory Lane in the first 19 races. "This is an unbelievable night," Elliott said. "We were fortunate enough to be in contention on that last pit stop, the guys busted their butts for me and that was the deciding factor. We all as a team, we completed our task tonight. And that was the difference."
Trevor Bayne finished second, followed by Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Ty Dillon. "We got our car turning there at the end," Bayne said. "That's probably the strongest weekend we've had in a while. Had it stayed green for another 15, we might have had it, but that's 15 laps we'll never know about. Added Larson, "I thought we had a real good car. I had some fun, just frustrating coming in third when I thought we had a real good chance to win."
As for Dillon, "I've got a feeling that we can keep doing this as the year goes on," he said. "The car was coming to me there at the end."
In addition to the race winner, Kahne was the second JR Motorsports driver in the top five. It almost didn't happen for Kahne, who brushed the wall late that did just enough damage to keep him from making a last-ditch run towards the front. Pole-sitter Brian Scott earned $100,000 in the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash for finishing sixth, ahead of fellow D4C competitors Chris Buescher (eighth), Elliott Sadler (10th) and Regan Smith (16th).
Seventh through 10th were Erik Jones (in his NNS debut), Buescher, Ryan Blaney and Sadler. Smith, who was the points leader coming into the race, struggled with a loose car and finished with a disappointing 16th showing. Elliott's win also vaulted him from third to the top of the Nationwide points standings. He now leads Smith by seven points and Sadler by eight points.
A series of green-flag pit stops around Lap 161 shuffled the field with teams hoping they could make it to the finish without it turning into a fuel-mileage race. Bayne took the lead at Lap 161 when the leaders made stops for service and held on until he had to come in on Lap 176 for four tires and fuel. Elliott inherited the lead, and kept it for the remainder of the race. Pole-sitter Scott led 20 laps early on before Ryan Blaney, Elliott and Larson took their turns ahead of the field.
Sam Hornish Jr., who started at the back of the field due to unapproved adjustments, quickly worked his way up to the middle of the pack only to have uncharacteristic engine failure in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that ended his night just eight laps into the event, finishing 36th in the 40-car field. "It felt like we were going to have a really good day and felt like this was going to be a race where we had opportunity to lead laps and potentially win," Hornish told ESPN. // NASCAR News Wire
Keselowski Cruises To NASCAR Sprint Cup Win, Completes New Hampshire Weekend Sweep
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Keselowski Sweeps New Hampshire Weekend
For Brad Keselowski, it’s beginning to look an awful lot like 2012 when everything went right on the way to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Keselowski led 138 of the last 232 laps to win Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 for his third Sprint Cup victory of the season. He held off Kyle Busch on the final restart and pulled away to win by three-quarters of a second in a green-white-checker finish.
"I’m not thinking of anything else right now (other) than how thankful I am to have a team and a car that is clicking well," said Keselowski from Victory Lane. "It’s every driver’s dream. I think, in a lot of ways, we’re stronger than (2012). I don’t think we’ve had this much speed before. I feel like I’m in a really strong rhythm right now. I think some of last year’s struggles put me in a spot to work harder and become a better race car driver. I think we’re combining all those things and we’re seeing the fruits of that labor -- with more to come."
Keselowski, 30, captured his first Sprint Cup championship in 2012 on the strength of five victories and 23 top-10 finishes in 36 starts. After failing to qualify for the Chase last season, he’s produced 10 top-10 performances in 19 races this season. "We were fast last year at this time but we weren’t executing," said Keselowski, who also won Saturday’s Sta-Green 200 Nationwide Series race and had dominated the speed charts during Saturday’s Sprint Cup practice sessions. "This year we’re executing and we have a lot of momentum. It really feels like we have hit our stride. "At the same time, we have a lot of potential still left in our team. Everybody is going to turn it up a notch when the Chase comes and we know that. You’ve got to have a good horse and we had that today. (But) we know we have to have another gear to grab to be able to run for a championship. I think we’re close but I want to keep pushing."
Presuming they attempt to qualify for the next seven races, Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10th) became the first two drivers to clinch spots in the Chase thanks to their showings on Sunday. "I’m proud of our team for that," Earnhardt said. "Hopefully we can improve before we come back here (for the second race of the Chase). That was the hardest I’ve ever worked for a 10th-place finish. We (were) off all weekend -- a real frustrating weekend to be honest."
Keselowski seemed to be in cruise control, leading Denny Hamlin by 2.91 seconds with four laps remaining. But Justin Allgaier spun and struck the wall, bringing out the race’s seventh caution flag and necessitating the fifth green-white-checker finish of the 2014 season and juggling the field. As soon as the yellow flag came out, Hamlin headed to the pits for a splash of gas and settled for eighth place. Jeff Gordon, who had been running third, ran his Hendrick Chevrolet out of gas and was relegated to 26th place. Kevin Harvick started second alongside Keselowski but ran out of fuel on the restart. "We had what I thought was the second-best car," Hamlin said. "I had to save fuel and couldn’t push it. I would have liked to have seen if we could have raced with the (No.) 2, but he obviously had a very dominant car."
The fuel situation left Busch and Clint Bowyer as the only drivers with a real shot at Keselowski in the final two laps. In the end, neither had anything for Keselowski. "I don’t think anybody did," said Busch, whose Joe Gibbs Toyota was strong enough to sit on the pole and lead 62 laps. "We made a gusty call at the end to stay out and see if we could make it on fuel. We barely made it – ran out right at the start-finish. All in all, a decent day to be coming home second."
Bowyer, who led 36 laps after leading a total of 12 in the previous 12 Cup events, faded to sixth behind rookie Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Keselowski’s power was evident when crew chief Paul Wolfe opted to give up the lead and take four tires when the race’s second caution came on Lap 113. It took Keselowski 13 laps to drive from 10th place to third and 10 more laps for him to get to the rear bumper of the leader, Kenseth. Throughout the race, Wolfe opted for fresh tires over track position. "I really was not sure how that was going to work out and unfold," Wolfe said. "Seeing that, I felt pretty good about the strength of our car and what Brad was able to do moving through traffic."
Team owner Roger Penske also liked what he was seeing. "Paul made great calls today," he said. "Watching Brad – and I got to see it from up on top – I can tell you there was nobody that could beat him. It was just great execution from everybody." Keselowski became the 13th different winner in the last 13 Cup races at New Hampshire, tying a record set at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch has now finished second at New Hampshire in three consecutive races. // NASCAR News Wire
Keselowski Dominates Nationwide Series Race At New Hampshire
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Keselowski Records a Perfect Driver Rating For The Sixth Time
Taking a deep breath at the winner's podium, Brad Keselowski took a second to savor his dominant Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Keselowski captured the pole, then led 152 of 200 laps to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200. In addition, he posted the fastest times in both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301. "One helluva Saturday," said Keselowski, who recorded a perfect driver rating for the sixth time in his Nationwide career and has finished no worse than third in any of his six Nationwide Series starts this season. "Sometimes on these really busy days you get so caught up in the action that you really can’t appreciate all that’s transpired."
In addition, Keselowski’s Penske-prepared Hertz Mustang became the first Nationwide Series car to win from the pole position in 17 races this season. He also won the March 8 race at Las Vegas and now has 29 victories in 211 Nationwide races. "We have so much to be proud of there and, obviously, we’re looking forward to tomorrow and the opportunity we have. Our Cup car was fast this morning. Our Nationwide car in qualifying had a lot of adversity but we fought through that and got the pole. In the Nationwide race the car was really fast."
Kyle Busch, the pole-sitter for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, was Keselowski’s primary competition and finished second ahead of Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson and rookie Chris Buescher. "It was a bit of a dogfight – one of the most challenging races I’ve ever ran, knowing that you have Kyle Busch behind you and he’s just a tiny bit faster," said Keselowski, whose only mistake was accidentally dropping the American flag during his victory lap. "You have to fight through a line of cars and it seemed like there was always something coming at us."
Busch pulled to within a car length of Keselowski’s rear bumper with 29 laps to go, but got loose on Lap 173, slid up the track and dropped nearly a second off the pace with 25 laps left. Taking advantage of lap traffic in the final 20 laps, Keselowski’s eventual winning margin was 1.8 seconds. "It was actually very hard-fought there at the end," Keselowski said. "He (Busch) was really good at making adjustments. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold him off."
Busch led the first 34 laps but never led again in falling just short of his fifth win in nine Nationwide Series starts at New Hampshire. "We got what we could out of our Monster Energy Camry," Busch said. "We had the best run there at the end but just not quite enough. We had to fight hard to get by a few guys, got to second but didn’t have quite enough to chase (Keselowski) down. "If it was clean and green all the way to the end I don’t know if I could have got to him. I was hoping for a couple opportunities there in traffic." Keselowski asserted his car as the one to beat, leading 66 of the first 100 laps. By Lap 66, only Busch (2.88) and Kenseth (9.25) were within 10 seconds of Keselowski’s yellow No. 22 Mustang.
True to its name, the Sta-Green 200 stayed caution-free for 76 laps prior to a yellow flag for debris on Lap 93 that tightened the field. Busch struggled after the restart while Larson seized the opportunity and tucked in second behind Keselowski. And he wasn’t second for long. When Brian Scott got into the back of third-place Elliott Sadler, it touched off a spin that involved seven cars, enabling Larson to seize the lead. Larson led the race twice for 11 laps. But when things settled down after the race’s fourth caution, Keselowski regained the top spot and went on to dominate the final 56 laps.
Series points leader Regan Smith didn’t have a top-five car but was the big bonus winner, capturing the $100,000 payoff in the first of four Dash 4 Cash races courtesy of Nationwide Insurance. Smith finished ahead of championship-eligible Nationwide Series drivers Ryan Reed (11th), Ryan Sieg (18th) and Jeremy Clements (20th), each of whom qualified for the Dash last week at Daytona International Speedway. Smith was in control of the Dash for most of the race but had trouble during a four-tire change in the pits with 55 laps left. Although Reed restarted in seventh and Smith ninth, Smith regained command on his fresh rubber and maintained his advantage the rest of the way. "The race was difficult for us," Smith said. "We didn’t have the speed I thought we were going to have. The last pit stop we decided to go for four (tires), had a little hiccup, and it cost us some positions. At that point, you kind of know the situation for the day and it’s 'OK, let’s take the silver lining and get out of here with the money. This means a lot to our team."
Smith, Buescher, Sadler and Scott emerged as qualifiers for the second of four Dash 4 Cash races next Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Smith also became the only driver eligible for a $600,000 bonus – which will translate to $1 million in total prize money should he win the Dash 4 Cash at Chicagoland and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 26), then win the Aug. 2 race at Iowa Speedway outright. Smith retained the series points lead by eight points over Sadler, who finished sixth, and 13 over Chase Elliott, who finished eighth. // NASCAR News Wire
Erik Jones Wins Iowa Camping World Truck SeriesRace
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Erik Jones Celebrates Iowa Victory
No one's ever questioned the talent Erik Jones possesses -- His luck? -- That's another matter entirely. But Friday at Iowa Speedway, both skill and good fortune finally co-existed for the 18-year-old Kyle Busch Motorsports driver, who powered to his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series triumph in the American Ethanol 200. "Glad we could get out and command the race and bring it home," said Jones, who led 131 laps and held off a spirited charge from Brad Keselowski Racing's Ryan Blaney, who settled for second.
He brought it home in one piece, too. Jones, who runs a 12-race schedule, was wrecked while leading late in the June 14 race at Gateway Motorsports Park outside of St. Louis. He was running in the top five when another truck sent him spinning on a late restart in the March 30 race at Martinsville. "You really want to try to make your mark every time you get in (the truck)," Jones said. "It's a tough industry and when you get in and you get turned around or something like that, it's just really a bummer and it kind of takes that week and you have to throw it away. When you only get so many opportunities, it makes it really hard as a young guy."
Not that he's complaining. His turn at the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota put the truck into Victory Lane for the sixth time this season — and the first time when owner Kyle Busch wasn't driving. "It was definitely fun," Jones said. "I had a lot of fun — two young guys battling hard there for the win. Pretty hungry."
It's the second time Blaney's snared a runner-up finish at Iowa Speedway this season. He ran second to Sam Hornish Jr. in May's Get to Know Newton 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. "We’re getting closer and closer to getting to Victory Lane," said Blaney, who owns one win at Iowa, which came in 2012. "It's just a matter of time." That description appeared apropos to Friday’s race at times, as well.
Blaney, who excelled in long runs, could reel in Jones, but couldn't stick a pass. His best chance came with 16 laps remaining, but a side-by-side duel that went three-wide with the lapped truck of Justin Lofton didn't provide enough daylight. "I knew that was my best opportunity to try to get by him," said Blaney, who notched his fifth top-five finish of the season. "We got really close. It almost sucked me around. Luckily we didn't wreck right there. It was tight racing, but a good race and hopefully good for the fans."
Matt Crafton earned third, with Joey Coulter and German Quiroga Jr. completing the top five. Crafton said lapped traffic often proved to be perilous, so he was pleased with his podium finish. "My Lord, some of these guys would go from the bottom to the top and back to the bottom," said Crafton, who assumed the series points lead by two over Blaney while former leader Johnny Sauter limped in with an 18th-place finish. It was absolutely insane, lapping some of them. I know they had their hands full, without a doubt."
That's not a problem for Jones, who battled his teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. for the lead early in the race before an ill-timed pit stop helped drop Wallace — the pole sitter — to 13th. "He knows what he needs in a truck and he knows how to race," said Eric Phillips, Jones’ crew chief. "He raced side by side with a lot of lapped cars to work through and he and Blaney raced hard all night. They didn't beat on each other or take each other out. They just raced hard and that's the sign of a true winner, or champion, in years to come."
The news was not all good for Jones, though, as it was determined after the race that the No. 51 truck was too low in the rear in post-race inspection. Any possible penalties will be determined early next week by NASCAR officials. The No. 51 Toyota was found to be too low in the front following Kyle Busch's win at Kentucky two weeks ago. Jones and Busch split seat time in the No. 51 truck. For the Kentucky infraction, NASCAR stripped KBM of six points in the series' team owner championship standings for violating a minimum ride height rule. Crew chief Eric Phillips was issued a $5,000 fine for the P2 level infraction at Kentucky. // NASCAR News Wire
Aric Almirola Wins Rain-Shortened Race At Daytona
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Almirola Celebrates In Victory Lane
The rain and the wrecks kept on coming at Daytona International Speedway in Sunday's 56th running of the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola. When the carnage from two major contender-claiming incidents was over, it was Aric Almirola who not only survived but claimed his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and took the giant step toward punching his ticket into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Running the iconic No. 43 with the U.S. Air Force on the hood for July 4 weekend, Almirola's win came on the 30th anniversary of team owner Richard Petty's 200th Cup victory. "I'm more concerned with getting my first win than what happened 30 years ago," admitted Almirola during the race's third red-flag delay for a thunderstorm that eventually halted the race with 48 scheduled laps remaining.
Not that Almirola, who edged Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch for the win, had no sense of history or what his triumph might mean to Richard Petty Motorsports. "Man, I just took the 43 car to victory at Daytona," said Almirola, standing under an umbrella in Victory Lane. "This is amazing. I grew up two hours away from here in Tampa and grew up in those stands, watching Daytona 500s and Firecracker 400s -- and grew up dreaming about what it would be like to win here."
Richard Petty wasn't at Daytona on Sunday but reveled in the victory via phone. "Today is the future," Petty said. "To be able to win a race down there, win it for the Air Force on the Fourth of July, the whole thing is great. We've had so many disappointments -- and it rained on us today. But it rained on us at the right time. You know, I don't ever give up on anything. Looking back on the history of Petty Enterprises -- the turmoil we've been through the last seven or eight years ... I've always said is that if I keep working on it long enough, you're going to overcome all of these things. One win doesn't get you over the hump but it makes it easier to go on from here."
With the No. 43's first victory at Daytona since 1984 and first Cup win at any track since John Andretti's victory at Martinsville Speedway in 1999, Almirola can now dream about what it will be like to pilot the No. 43 in the Chase. "Yes, and deservedly so for this race team," he said. "Now we're going to be a part of that, to have the opportunity, not only to take (our sponsors) to Victory Lane, but to have that added exposure of the Chase. It is really cool to give back to those people who took a chance on me and took a chance on our race team." The victory was the third consecutively for Ford, which last won three in a row in 2005 with victories by Greg Biffle (2) and Carl Edwards.
Biffle, who led the race briefly but finished 29th, predicted chaos when he watched drivers such as David Gilliland, Landon Cassill and Reed Sorenson, not among the points leaders, battling at the front of the field early on. Biffle called it some of the craziest racing he'd ever seen. But he never saw the massive incident on Lap 98 brewing. "The beginning of (the race) was crazy when the 40 and 36 and 38 were dicing for the lead," he said. "Then it calmed down and we had a green-flag pit cycle. (The 26-car crash) was just a chain reaction. This wasn't (about craziness) at all. This was pretty calm."
Sunday's first big-time wreck occurred on Lap 20, just before NASCAR's scheduled competition caution. Sixteen cars were involved, including the top six drivers in the point standings. Near the front of the field, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got a bit loose. Jeff Gordon, looking to avoid him, tapped Tony Stewart and the chaos was on. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Edwards, Kyle Larson and AJ Allmendinger joined Stenhouse and Stewart in the garage with substantial damage. "A half-lap from getting a competition caution and Stenhouse is going to be a hero," said Stewart, among the perennial contenders to note of some wild racing at the front of the pack. "I guess Ricky thought it paid something to get to Lap 20. I don't know what happened to him, but he took out a bunch of good cars right there."
Stenhouse deflected the criticism. "It just got loose," Stenhouse said. "We had a full head of steam. The 24 (Gordon) was pushing me pretty good there and the 33 (Bobby Labonte) pulled out ahead of us and blocked. I checked up a little and all of a sudden we got hit in the left rear. " The second incident also began near the front of the pack when Biffle got into the back of the weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series race winner Kasey Kahne. That contact sent Kahne and Joey Logano spinning in action that collected a total of 26 cars.
The chaos left Almirola on the lead with Kurt Busch and Vickers in pursuit. It also left Kyle Busch upside down in his Joe Gibbs Toyota. "I knew it was going to be big as far up (in the field) as I was," Kahne said. "I was getting hit from behind and I just started spinning. It's kind of scary. I think my car got airborne. I have never had that happen before and it's a helpless feeling when you're getting hit as you are in the air. I was more concerned when I got out and saw Kyle on his roof. I wasn't sure why he wasn't getting out with his car being upside down on the track."
Kyle Busch was able to manage a bit of levity even after his car was plowed into by Cole Whitt, toppling it onto its roof. "Just hanging out," Busch radioed, indicating he was OK. "It felt like a slow carnival ride. I guess that's fitting for 4th of July weekend but not here in Daytona. I just got T-boned there at the end and it just kind of toppled me over."
Note: Kurt Busch's No. 41 car will undergo a tech investigation at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, after a split track bar was discovered. // NASCAR News Wire
Kasey Kahne Wins Daytona Nationwide Series Race
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Kahne (5) Wins In Photo Finish
Kasey Kahne and Ryan Sieg were non-factors for much of Friday night’s Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway. Kahne, sitting 12th for a restart with three laps remaining, hadn’t won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race since August 2007. Sieg, a rookie running 14th, had never finished better than ninth in 19 previous Nationwide starts. But when it came to the final push, there they were – Kahne charging from eighth during a green-white-checkered finish and Sieg nudging him past Regan Smith for the victory. "Ryan Sieg was pushing me hard, letting off and bumping and that was the reason we were able to win," Kahne said. "Sieg hit me from behind and hit me hard. I just kept getting more momentum coming to the line."
The victory by just 0.021 seconds (third closest in the series at Daytona) was the second Nationwide triumph in a row for JR Motorsports and owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won at Kentucky Speedway last week with Kevin Harvick driving the No. 5 Chevrolet. Earnhardt couldn’t lose in the photo finish. He also owns the car of Smith, who was denied a 2014 Nationwide Series sweep at Daytona. "It’s been a while since I’ve been in any victory lane. It felt great," said Kahne, who said he felt "kind of trapped" in mid-pack for much of the race. We just kind of sat there through most of the race. I was kind of at the wrong place at the wrong time. Then, the last half-lap I had tons of momentum. The cars in front of me moved in the right direction. Ryan Sieg was pushing and letting off and bumping and hitting me good and hard. That was kind of the whole reason we were able to win."
On the final restart, Smith, who led a race-high 47 laps, had his hands full fending off Kyle Larson, who was being pushed by Ryan Reed. Meanwhile, Smith was getting help on his rear bumper from Joey Logano, who battled back from an early-race speeding penalty and finished sixth. "I didn’t even know the 5 (Kahne) had a run until we were past the start-finish line," said Smith, who has excelled at restrictor plate tracks this season with his victory at Daytona and third-place finish at Talladega. "I knew he had so much momentum when he went past me, I kind of figured he nipped me. I had enough time to look at the (scoring) pylon real quick and it had already adjusted, so I knew, right there. It’s amazing at the end of these races," Smith added. "We hit each other all race long and every time somebody touches you in the middle of the corner it’s ‘Oh, man, don’t do that.’ It feels like the car is dancing around. Then we get out there at the end and we just blast the back bumpers off each other and somehow make it back to the stripe."
Sieg, driving the Pull-A-Part Used Auto Parts Chevrolet for RSS Racing, not only earned his best career finish (third) but praise from both Kahne and Earnhardt, who said he noticed how hard he raced earlier in the season at Dover despite less-than-top equipment. "It was crazy," Sieg said of the finish. Kasey got clear and I just pushed him a little harder at the end. He wasn’t squirrely or nothing, so I kept going. (Sieg) does a great job," Kahne said. "It’s tough to run with the JR team and Gibbs and Penske and Roush and Turner Motorsports. He does a good job with what they have, and if he keeps it up, he’ll get more opportunities."
What had been a nearly-clean race turned chaotic with two crashes in the final seven laps, the second of which involved Elliott Sadler as he tried to rally from 11th place. Like Sadler, contenders Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott also required pit stops before the final restart. Smith regained the Nationwide Series points lead, taking a 12-point advantage on Sadler, who led 28 of the first 35 laps but was forced to return to the pits after the first round of pit stops left him with a wheel vibration. Sadler dropped all the way to 27th, a lap down, and finished 21st after his incident on the restart with three laps remaining. The finishing order was also significant because the top four finishers among full-time Nationwide Series drivers (Smith, Sieg, Reed, who finished fourth, and Jeremy Clements, who rallied for eighth), qualified for the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash program which will pay at least $100,000 to top performers in each of the next four races.
Kyle Busch, no worse than fourth in any of his previous 12 Nationwide starts this season, seemed poised for another strong finish. He led seven laps but settled for 17th after his late pit stop. Joe Gibbs Racing was dominant early with Sadler, Busch and Darrell Wallace Jr. (seventh) running 1-2-3 in front of Trevor Bayne and pole sitter Dakoda Armstrong for much of the early going. Armstrong earned the pole in rain-shortened qualifying and was in contention for much of the race before falling to 19th. Jeffrey Earnhardt, driving despite a broken collarbone, gave way to relief driver Matt DiBenedetto on the way to a 33rd place showing.// NASCAR News Wire
Brad Keselowski Wins From The Pole At Kentucky Speedway
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Keselowski Celebrates Kentucky Victory
Sometimes the fastest car doesn’t always win. On Saturday night, at Kentucky Speedway, it did. Battling back from varying pit stop strategies, Brad Keselowski climbed six positions over the final 47 laps to pick up his second win of the season in dominating fashion in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts. By winning, Keselowski guarantees himself a berth into the Chase and also becomes the first two-time winner at the 1.5-mile speedway in three years. "Our car was awesome," said Keselowski, who earned his 12th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. "The team did a great job and I’m just really thankful to have a car this good. I don’t know how else to put it. The Miller Lite Ford Fusion was hauling and I just can’t wait to get deeper in the season and the post-season. I think this is where we need to be to have a shot at another championship, so I’m just real proud of everyone right now."
Pole sitter Keselowski led the opening 27 Laps until Denny Hamlin wrecked in Turn 4. The first yellow flag of the night would also serve as the scheduled competition caution. Keselowski brought the field down pit road, where teams tried varying strategies. The top 10 cars elected for two tires, while the others took on four tires. The Lap 34 restart kept Keselowski in control and by Lap 60 he had extended his lead to 3.5-second over Kevin Harvick. The gap would close on Lap 77 for Kyle Larson, who lost a right-front tire and slammed the Turn 2 wall. Under the yellow, everyone took four tires, with outside pole sitter Joey Logano beating his teammate off pit lane ahead of Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne.
Logano set the field back into racing conditions, but Keselowski was determined to put his Ford Fusion back at the helm, moving past the No. 22 on Lap 88 and by Lap 104 had extended his lead to 2.7 seconds. By Lap 125, Busch had knocked a chunk out of his lead, but a lap later, the yellow flag waived for debris in Turns 3 and 4. Pit road became a very busy place and for the second time of the night, Keselowski lost the lead on pit road to Logano with Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. leading the parade back onto the racetrack. The race resumed on Lap 132, but 15 laps later, Keselowski took the lead back from Logano.
A three-car incident on Lap 154 for Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Jamie McMurray brought out the fourth yellow of the night and sent the lead lap cars to pit road, where Keselowski and others taking two tires and fuel. Once again, Logano had the better stop and took the lead from Keselowski. While Logano led for the Lap 161 restart, Keselowski didn’t waste any time and reasserted his control on Lap 163 and led until a Lap 177 caution for a solo spin by David Stremme. Pit road opened with the leader deciding to stay out, as did much of the top 10. -- 86 Laps remained when the green flag flew, with Keselowski fumbling, which allowed Logano to take advantage, but not for long as the ‘Blue Deuce’ quickly pedaled back to the point. The Rochester Hills, Michigan native led through Lap 215, when Almirola lost a tire and hit the Turn 1 wall. The sixth yellow flag of the night was a welcomed sight for the lead pack, as they were within a few laps of having to pit under green flag conditions.
Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, and Earnhardt Jr. remained on the track as they pitted before the caution waived and became the top-three leaders. Meanwhile, a two-tire stop allowed Paul Menard to beat Matt Kenseth off pit road and they restarted fourth and fifth respectively. Keselowski was sixth. The Lap 220 restart saw Busch trying to fend off Ryan Newman, with the Team Penske cars of Keselowski and Logano stalking them from the rear. Keselowski made the move around Newman for second on Lap 233 and set his sights on leader Busch, who grew his lead to 1.7 seconds. As the laps ticked away, Keselowski began to catch the No. 18 of Busch and when the No. 18 ran into trouble passing the lapped machine of Reed Sorenson, Keselowski was able to make up nearly 1.1 seconds over three laps to grab the lead from him on Lap 249. Over the next 18 laps, Keselowski drove to a 1.015 second margin over Busch and claimed his second checkered flag of the season, his first since winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.
Even with the fastest car of the night, the 2012 NSCS champion wasn’t sure he would have enough to catch Busch at the end. "It was gonna be tough," he said when thinking about having to chase him down. "I knew it was gonna be really, really tough. I figured we’d get to him, but I didn’t really think I’d be able to pass him. I caught a little break in lap traffic and the car was just that good. I was able to take advantage of it and get the lead. That was awesome." Keselowski trip to Victory Lane was momentarily interrupted, as he cut his right hand while opening a champagne bottle, which exploded in his possession. He rushed to the infield care center, where he received four stitches, changed his race uniform and returned to Victory Lane for additional post-race celebrations. "We were playing around with some champagne bottles and as I told my good friend, ‘We should have stuck with beer.’ We were having too much fun with champagne and one of the bottles broke and I cut my hand open. It’s no big deal," the 30-year old said.
As for Busch, who racked in three top-three finishes across NASCAR’s three National divisions this weekend. "We were a lot better than we’ve been all year long and that’s a testament to what the guys did overnight fixing this M&M’s Toyota Camry into what I could drive today and making it fast," Busch sounded. "We had good speed, so I was real proud of that effort. I got so loose there at the end -- the loosest I’ve gotten all day and the loosest I’ve been in traffic all day too. I just couldn’t hold on and couldn’t keep it where I wanted it, and was sliding all over the place and just trying not to wreck basically." Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five.
For Newman, it was his first top-five finish since joining Richard Childress Racing this season. "It’s a big gain for us and our Caterpillar Chevrolet," he said. "All the guys at RCR and ECR got us that first top five of the season. I’ve got to thank everybody from Caterpillar and Quicken Loans for the opportunity they’ve given us this year. It was a good run. The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski, race winner) was obviously the fastest car all night. The No. 18 (Kyle Busch) got a little bit better there at the end. We were pretty solid. We never really changed the car. It felt like we were pretty neutral and didn’t want to screw it up. So, we ended up where we did."
Jeff Gordon finished sixth ahead of Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, with an alleged down cylinder and Jimmie Johnson comprised the remainder of the top-10. Jeff Gordon remains the point’s leader over Jimmie Johnson by 24 points (618 to 594). Dale Earnhardt Jr. is third (-24), Keselowski fourth (-58) and Kenseth fifth (-63). -- Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Reining NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is the defending champion of the event. // NASCAR News Wire
Late Pass Gives Kevin Harvick Nationwide Win At Kentucky
CIA Stock Photos
Kevin Harvick In Victory Lane
A late-race pass on Kyle Busch on the final restart of the night awarded Kevin Harvick of JR Motorsports the win Friday night at Kentucky Speedway in the running of the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. Harvick, though should thank Brad Keselowski for the trophy after Keselowski foiled late in the race with a speeding penalty on Lap 148, which put him behind and opened the door for a classic shoot-out between two former Nationwide Series champions. "All in all, it was a very strange night," said Harvick, who noted that they weren’t racing tonight three weeks ago. "In the beginning our car wasn’t that bad, we needed some adjustments, had some things happen on some pit stops, so we pitted and put four tires on and everything kinda of fell our way. We were able to get a little bit of a tire advantage there at the end and Ernie (Cope, crew chief) made a really good adjustment to the race car that allowed us to really take off and run the best we had all night."
Winning his third pole of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series just an hour before race time, Brad Keselowski led the 40-car starting field to the green flag and quickly walked away from outside pole sitter Kyle Busch. While the top-10 shuffled near the rear of the deck, Keselowski continued to stretch his lead by Lap 20 and 10 laps later, the Team Penske driver extended his lead to 2.6 seconds. 13 laps later the caution flag fell for the first time of the night for debris on the backstretch. Under the yellow, the lead pack elected to come to pit road for tires, fuel and adjustments. Quick work by Richard Childress Racing surged Paul Menard from third to first, leading Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick off pit road. Kyle Busch entered second, but lost several positions after overshooting his pit stall.
Menard was able to hold the lead on the initial restart, but Keselowski throttled forward a lap later and reassumed control on Lap 48. Twelve laps later, Keselowski had grown his lead to 1.7 seconds over Menard. He remained in control until Lap 83 when the caution flew for debris in Turn 4. Under the yellow, Shane Sieg turned Jeremy Clements in Turn 1, emotions rolling over -- stemming from some alleged light contact exiting Turn 4 the lap before. Meanwhile, the leaders pitted with teams utilizing varying strategies. A two-tire stop for Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith moved them ahead of Keselowski, Road America winner Brendan Gaughan and Kyle Busch as they came off pit road. Sadler would be overtaken by Smith on the restart, but his time at the front was short-lived as he would prove to be no match for a thundering Keselowski, who reclaimed first on Lap 90.
The Rochester Hills, Michigan native would continue to lead through the halfway point, until Matt Kenseth crashed on Lap 102 bringing out the event’s third caution. A majority of the leaders decided to stay out under the yellow, knowing that they could not make it to the finish. On the restart, Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion continued his race dominance and by Lap 135 was able to maneuver a 1.9-second gap. Green flag pit stop began on Lap 138 with Keselowski bringing his No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang to pit road on Lap 148, but after a solid stop, the Team Penske pilot would be tagged with a speeding ticket and have to serve a pass-thru penalty. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick took the lead when Keselowski pitted on Lap 149 with a 3.1 margin over Gaughan, until the caution waived on Lap 156 for debris.
Needing to make a pit stop, the leaders came to pit road with Harvick leading the parade off pit road, though not as the leader as Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Blaney remained on the racetrack, holding the top-three spots. Harvick found himself fourth for the impending restart. With 39 Laps to go, Busch led the Nationwide train back to the green flag and despite some controlled chaos racing behind, Busch held a steady lead ahead of Harvick, but Keselowski, who took a waive-around under the prior yellow flag had roared from 17th to ninth in just five green flag laps and set his sights forward. Keselowski needed a caution to close the gap and that came on Lap 168 when Ryan Reed and Regan Smith made contact on the backstretch, which sent Smith’s No. 7 into the wall.
When racing resumed, Harvick attempted to take the lead from Busch, with Keselowski lurking from behind in fifth, but Dakoda Armstrong wrecked on the backstretch on Lap 176, it stacked the field back together. With 21 laps to go, racing resumed with intense side-by-side racing between Busch and Harvick, with Menard, Gaughan and Keselowski stalking from behind. With 16 Laps to go, Busch cleared Harvick and built a small cushion between him. A late race caution on Lap 192 for an incident involving Trevor Bayne and Chase Elliott bunched the field back together for a five-lap shootout. On the restart, Harvick powered using the low-line to pass Busch for the lead, with Keselowski attacking his prey and moving into second and setting his sights on the No. 5 Chevrolet of Harvick. Keselowski though would run out of time and Harvick soared to his second NASCAR Nationwide Series win of the season. It was the fifth win of the year for JR Motorsports (Chase Elliott, 2, Kevin Harvick, 2 and Regan Smith, 1).
JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke about how proud he was of his Mooresville, North Carolina-based team. "Kevin (Harvick) just had enough opportunity on the restart," Earnhardt said. "I was real surprised it worked out. We’re having a lot of fun winning some races and it’s definitely going to benefit our company in the long run and I can’t thank Kevin enough for coming to be a part of it." Keselowski took responsibility for the slip in the race, but was equally proud of the recovery. "We had a great Discount Tire Ford and I definitely put us behind and was just one spot away from catching back up," offered Keselowski post-race. "You still have to give credit to Kevin at the end there. He drove by and took the lead, so he was really good."
As for Busch, who saw his second win of the weekend evaporate in the waning laps said he shouldn’t be disappointed with third, but he was. "We didn’t have the car to beat so shouldn’t be upset with a third, but there at the end we had the opportunity to win the race and through the middle part of the race I passed the 5 (Kevin Harvick) car and just didn’t have enough on the final restarts unfortunately. Just not enough there to hold Kevin (Harvick) off. He just flat drove right by me on the restart." Kyle Busch finished third with Paul Menard fourth and Team Penske Racing teammate Ryan Blaney in fifth. Richard Childress Racing claimed sixth through eight with Gaughan, Ty Dillon and Brian Scott with Larson and new points leader Elliott Sadler comprising the top-10.
Elliott Sadler grabbed the NASCAR Nationwide Series points lead exiting Kentucky. He has a slim four point gap over Chase Elliott. Regan Smith is third (-8), Ty Dillon fourth (-29) and Brian Scott fifth (-47). Next up for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is their final restrictor plate race of the season from Daytona (Fla.) Speedway on Independence Day (July 4) next Friday night for the running of the Subway Firecracker 250. // NASCAR News Wire