Brad Keselowski

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Watkins Glen

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Photo by: Robert Laberge 

The Go Bowling at the Glen produced a first time winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday in New York.

A youngster dominated and held off defending champion Martin Truex Jr. to earn his first victory in the series at Watkins Glen International.

Three young guns, including Sunday’s winner, a former MENCS champion, and a veteran make up this week’s Top 5.

No. 1 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski’s finish on Sunday wasn’t stellar to his standards, however it was an improvement compared to last week.

Keselowski gained 21 positions from his finish at Pocono. He earned stage points in Stage 1 with a fifth place finish. He ran as high as fourth before finishing in 17th.

The Team Penske driver is 10th in the playoff standings with four races to go in the regular season, 264 points behind leader Kyle Busch.

No. 2 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his 12th top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing in sixth place.

Larson failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with an eighth place finish.

Larson’s finish at the Glen is the Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s best finish since his debut in 2014, when he finished fourth at the 2.450-mile road course.

Larson is 11th in the playoff standings, 274 points behind Busch and 10 points from Keselowski.

No. 3 Jamie McMurray – Jamie McMurray earned his fourth top 10 of 2018, finishing seventh.

McMurray failed to earn stage points in Stage 1 on Sunday, but earned them in Stage 2 with sixth place.

McMurray earned his first top-10 finish in seven races, his last coming at Michigan in June when he finished in 10th place.

McMurray is 22nd in the points standings, 524 points behind Busch and 51 points from the cutoff position.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is going to need a win to advance into the playoffs. Can he get it done at Michigan this weekend? He has two top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes at the two-mile track.

No. 4 Chase Elliott – Chase Elliott earned his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver dominated in his 99th series start, leading 52 of 90 laps.

Elliott finished outside the top 10 in Stage 1, but captured his third stage win of the season during Stage 2.

Elliott secured his place into the playoffs with the win. He sits sixth in the playoff standings, 315 points behind Busch and 72 points from Joey Logano in fifth.

No. 5 Alex Bowman – Alex Bowman hasn’t raced at Watkins Glen in three years, but that didn’t stop the 25-year-old from earning his best finish there.

Bowman earned stage points in Stage 1 (seventh), before finishing 14th on Sunday.

The HMS driver is in the cutoff position in the playoff standings by 62 points over Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Charlotte

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Photo by: Brian Lawdermilk

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series spent Memorial Day weekend in NASCAR’s backyard at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Three drivers were faced with various challenges during the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 27, 2018.

Two former champions are featured in this week’s top 5, one who continues to face an uphill climb as we approach the summer.

No. 1 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski’s fourth place finish on Sunday was the first top-5 finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Team Penske driver since May of 2016, where he finished fifth in the Coca-Cola 600.

Keselowski failed to earn stage points in the first two stages of the event, but finished third at the end of Stage 3.

Keselowski, who was the top Penske finisher, gained 35 positions from his finish one year ago. He avoided tire trouble as well as being caught up in a wreck for his third top 5 of the season.

Keselowski is fourth in the points standings, 136 points behind leader Kyle Busch. He is seven points ahead of defending champion Martin Truex Jr.

No. 2 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson overcame adversity at Charlotte before earning his eighth top 10 of the season.

Larson was running fourth when his No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet got away from him, causing Larson to spin in Turn 1. Larson impressively avoided hitting the wall and kept the damage to a minimum.

Larson failed to earn stage points in Stage 3 after bringing out the ninth caution of the night, but he did secure points in Stage 1 and Stage 2 with third.

Larson finished seventh and gained two positions in the points standings. He sits ninth, 191 points behind Busch.

No. 3 Chase Elliott – Chase Elliott was a quiet competitor despite running inside the top 15 for majority of the night.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver finished seventh during Stage 2 and had an 12th place average throughout 600 miles. Elliott gained 27 spots from his position in last year’s event, where an early two-car accident took him out of contention.

Elliott brought his No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet home in 11th place. He holds the 15th position in the points standings, tied with Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 277 points behind Busch and 80 points from Aric Almirola in 10th.

No. 4 Jimmie Johnson – Like Larson, Jimmie Johnson was faced with challenges on Sunday night.

Johnson was involved in a four-car accident on Lap 121 after slight contact sent the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet spinning. Johnson avoided hitting the wall and contact with other competitors.

Despite restarting outside of the top 25, the Hendrick Motorsports driver was inside the top 5 within 40 laps and crossed the line eighth at the end of Stage 2.

An issue on pit road early in Stage 3 was the cause of Johnson battling from behind again, but Johnson prevailed to finish in the 11th position at stage end.

Johnson settled inside the top 10 with less than 100 laps to go, before finishing fifth and earning his second top-5 finish of 2018.

Johnson sits 12th in the points standings, 246 points behind Busch and 49 points behind Almirola.

No. 5 Erik Jones – Erik Jones did not improve his position from last year’s Coca-Cola 600, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver did secure stage points in the three stages, matching results in both Charlotte events in 2017.

Jones’ 19th place finish was the result of three pit road issues, two of which involved the No. 95 of Kasey Kahne, and being involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 121.

The first pit road problem occurred in the early laps of Stage 1 under caution. Jones was pinned behind Kahne on pit road, forcing the 21-year-old to back up before exiting his stall. Later, Kahne ran over a hose that resulted in Jones’ front tire-changer losing his pit gun.

Jones finished 10th in Stage 1 and Stage 2. He earned a second-place finish at the end of Stage 3.

Jones was hit with his third pit road problem during his final stop, which was an uncontrolled tire violation.

Jones was unable to recover and finished in the 19th position. He is 13th in the points standings, 259 points behind Busch. He is 62 points from 10th.

Notables: Busch became the first driver in NASCAR history to earn a win at every active track on the MENCS schedule. Busch led 377 of 400 laps on Sunday before earning his 47th Cup victory.

Busch extending his points lead to 67 points over Joey Logano and 88 points ahead of Kevin Harvick, who finished last on Sunday.

William Byron currently leads the Rookie of the Year battle over Darrell Wallace Jr. despite crashing out on Lap 116. Byron finished 39th, while Wallace finished in the 16th position.

Brad Keselowski prevails at Atlanta

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Photo by: Brian Lawdermilk

Brad Keselowski capitalized on others mistakes Sunday evening after battling his own to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

Keselowski was forced to pit late in the race after a team setback left the No. 2 Autotrader Ford restarting 13th, dampening their chances at a victory. But Keselowski was not to be denied.

“Everybody stayed focused and nobody had to say anything,” he said. “We know the deal. We know this isn’t going to be easy. You have to keep your head down and keep fighting at all times and that’s what we did.”

Keselowski maintained the track position he worked for despite pitting for fresh tires after a caution was thrown for Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick was penalized for speeding on pit road.

Keselowski passed Kyle Larson five laps later to score the 22nd victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. Harvick dominated the event, winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2, before a costly miscalculation.

“I thought I was being conservative,” Harvick said, “Apparently, I wasn’t. I was just pushing it too hard.”

Harvick was just one of the 13 speeding violations throughout the event. Chase Elliott, who paid the price on Lap 212, made a comeback for fifth place.

While most drivers were being penalized for speeding on pit road, surprisingly, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin was not. However, he suffered a rear end issue and finished 38th of the 39 car field.

At the end of the day it was Keselowski with all the glory. He sits third in the standings after gaining five playoff points, while Harvick leads after two races.

Brad Keselowski’s win at Kentucky comes down to fuel mileage

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts

Photo by: Matt Sullivan

Brad Keselowski held more than an eight second lead over Carl Edwards in the remaining laps of the Quaker State 400 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

That lead deteriorated as he went into fuel saving mode to make it to grab the checkers for his second win in two weeks.

“We knew the fuel mileage,” Keselowski said, “We went out and we set a really fast pace there on that restart and just using fuel, and then it became obvious that you were going to have to save fuel at the end, but I already used so much.”

The Penske driver did not have fuel to do a victory donut, needing a push to victory lane, but he made the distance that mattered to clinch his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, where only 8 races remain before the start of the 2016 playoffs.

This was the first race at Kentucky Speedway since the repave and reconfiguration, causing top contention drivers like Hendrick Motorsports driver, Jimmie Johnson, and Joey Logano slamming into the walls and ending their day to compete for the win.

“As long as you weren’t around anybody, it was great.” Tony Stewart said after scoring a fifth place victory in his final start at the 1.5-mile track.

Keselowski, who now has three wins at Kentucky, reiterated the Stewart-Haas Racing’s statement.

“These cars were tough to drive today, but a good tough. This was a hard-fought battle, and I’m really proud of everybody on the 2 crew to get win number four and take that first place.”

Brad Keselowski scores Daytona victory

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola

Photo by: Matt Sullivan

Brad Keselowski knows his way around restrictor-plate tracks, scoring five victories since his Sprint Cup start in 2009, so it’s no surprise that he dominated his way to victory lane during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Keselowski led 115 of 161 laps while avoiding damage from multiple wrecks Saturday night before capturing his first win at Daytona. The victory is also Penske’s 100th Cup victory.

“It’s been a kick in the you-know-what,” Keselowski said about scoring the Daytona victory, “I got down on myself here. We came down here for the 500 and quite honestly we ran like dog crap, but my team worked on it. I didn’t give up on them.

“I believe in my team and my team believes in me and we went to work and we put together a better car, and it really showed today with a great effort from the whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Although Keselowski has had little to no success at Daytona, his continued effort has helped him gain more knowledge on what to expect at Daytona and its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway.

“I always thought it was one of his strengths for sure,” Paul Wolfe, crew chief of the No. 2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford said. “Brad is a thinker and he studies and he tries to understand, so I know he’s put his time in to try to understand how the draft works and how to be better at it.”

Keselowski, with the help of his teammate Joey Logano, held off Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch in NASCAR overtime for his 20th career Cup win, which happened to be during Keselowski’s 250th Cup start.

“It was a good effort for us for sure. The wins are never easy to come by, and I think this one means a lot to me for sure because looking at our past here, it hasn’t been all that rosy.” Keselowski said, “Usually I’m loading up the car and about to be to the airport, so it’s nice to be here and have a great finish.”

Brad Keselowski avoids wreckers, gets checkers

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500

Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton

Brad Keselowski was one of five drivers that were not involved in any wreck during Sunday afternoon’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Keselowski escaped a day that was full of multi-car wrecks, which included two drivers getting airborne and flipping multiple times.

“This [track] is one where it’s in your face challenging to if you make a mistake, it’s going to be a really, really big wreck” Keselowski said

Keselowski protected his position throughout the day, but also received help from Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray for his fourth win at Talladega

“Jamie McMurray behind me gave me a great push, and then Kyle Busch gave me a push that was big to clear the 41 (Kurt Busch), and without those two I couldn’t have made it to the front. So ‘Thank you’ to them.”

Keselowski may have been the only one with some encouraging words for the racing that took place. Many drivers, including second place finisher Kyle Busch, were less enthused about restrictor-plate racing.

“These cars, you try to get a little bit aggressive, start bumping people and pushing people, they’re real easy to get out of control,” Busch said. “I really don’t know why we’re bumping and pushing and everything else, because these cars, they go slower when you push. Makes a lot of sense. That’s how stupid we are.”

Chris Buescher and Matt Kenseth received the worst end of damage throughout the day that included 10 cautions. Their cars went airborne, in separate accidents, after contact with other vehicles.

“I saw it happening in front of us and checked up and the next thing I knew I was upside down,” said Buescher. “I am pretty sick and tired of speedway racing at this point. It has been a rough year for that. We felt we were decent this race. We were holding our own and waiting but here we are. It is unfortunate. I really hate it for the guys.”

Sunday’s race was chaotic, but nothing short of a typical day at Talladega. The advancements in NASCAR’s technology, again, allowed multiple drivers to walk away. Another being Stewart-Haas Racing’s Danica Patrick.

Patrick was a part of a 12-car pile-up on lap 181 and appeared to be shaken up after her No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet hit a SAFER barrier. She underwent X-rays on her chest after experiencing pain while breathing after the crash. The scans came back negative.

“We all raced to the halfway, then we all raced to the rain that was coming, then we all raced to the end,” she said. “It was like the whole race, you spent it racing like it was the end. There was no moments to relax at all.”

While the race may not have been relaxing, drivers did not second-guess taking the necessary measures in order to be a contender at the end.

“I have to put myself in a situation I don’t want to be in to get into a good situation,” Dillon, who finished third, said. “You have to put yourself in bad situations that you wouldn’t normally do to figure out how to get to the front.”

Keselowski, who described restrictor-plate racing as being a daredevil-type track shared a similar perspective.

“You’re going to make a move inches from another drive, cut them off, push them, you’re going to drive sideways, hang it all out there knowing something bad can really happen,” Keselowski said. “I think it’s special under the circumstances and under that level of adversity. It’s a challenge I’ve always embraced.”