SRT Motorsports - Weekend Motorsports Recap - Nov. 11
WEEKEND MOTORSPORTS RECAP
KESELOWSKI CAPITALIZES ON JOHNSON’S MISFORTUNE, TAKES CHASE LEAD
• Keselowski Finishes Sixth at Phoenix in No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger
• Results Fall Short of Expectations for Dodge Drivers in Nationwide Race
• Blaney Drives No. 29 RAM to Top-Five Finish at Phoenix, Mayhew 12th
November 12, 2012 , Auburn Hills, Mich. -
CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP
Brad Keselowski took advantage of Jimmie Johnson’s misfortune in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway to turn a seven-point deficit into a 20-point lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with one race remaining.
In Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Keselowski can clinch his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with a finish of 15th or better; or 16th and lead at least one lap; or 17th and lead the most laps even if Johnson wins the race and collects the maximum 48 points. All other drivers have been mathematically eliminated.
2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
1. BRAD KESELOWSKI 2371
2. Jimmie Johnson -20
3. Kasey Kahne -50
4. Clint Bowyer -52
5. Denny Hamlin -62
6. Matt Kenseth -74
7. Greg Biffle -78
8. Kevin Harvick -86
9. Tony Stewart -87
10. Jeff Gordon -90
11. Martin Truex Jr. -111
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -160
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES (NSCS)
Brad Keselowski is only in his third full season of competition in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Yet, a championship in NASCAR’s premier series is within the grasp of the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. A Sprint Cup championship would be the first for Penske Racing. It would be the first for Dodge since 1975 (Richard Petty).
Keselowski entered Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway trailing five-time champion Jimmie Johnson by seven points. He now has a 20-point lead heading into the season finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Keselowski executed the team’s strategy to perfection to finish sixth. Meanwhile, the racing was anything but calm as mishaps produced eight cautions that prompted retaliation on the track, a red flag, a fight in the pit area and out-of-control tempers. Johnson had his own problems. He finished 32nd after apparently cutting down a right-front tire on Lap 235 and crashing into the outside wall in Turn 4.
“I wanted to take the point lead by winning a race and not relying on a failure,” said Keselowski. “Sometimes, that’s not how the sport works and you have to accept that. I’m more disappointed in the quality of racing that we saw today. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous.”
Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe played it safe throughout the event which was extended beyond the scheduled 312 laps for a green-white-checkered finish. The two elected to give up track position and pit for tires during the sixth caution on Lap 274. The Blue Deuce restarted eighth when the event went green three laps later. He was racing Joey Logano for seventh-place when Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer tangled to ignite a four-car mishap just ahead of the No. 2 Dodge. A red flag stopped the field for the debris clean-up.
The red flag gave both the No. 24 and No. 15 teams an opportunity to vent their frustration. They took full advantage. Crew members engaged in a brawl. Bowyer got out of his car and raced, on foot, to the garage to confront Gordon. It was “boys have at it” full tilt.
Keselowski restarted fifth in the two-lap overtime. Leader and race winner Kevin Harvick had just taken the white flag when Danica Patrick wrecked in Turn 4. When her race car started moving toward the start-finish line, NASCAR elected not to throw the yellow to give the field a chance to race back to the checkered flag. They did and it ended up with a massive frontstretch pileup that included seven cars. The No. 2 Dodge was battered but Keselowski kept it pointed toward the start-finish line.
“We hit the oil,” Keselowski said. “We were all out of control. I saw it happening and thought ‘Oh boy, I’ve got to get all the way to the start-finish line.’ I got clipped but made it through sideways. That just shows you when you have good fortune on your side, it’s a good thing.
“All year long we’ve had a team that’s rallied around each other and found a way to persevere through adversity. I’m very, very lucky to have them and I know that. This is a team sport. NASCAR racing doesn’t get the credit for that but it really is a team sport. We rely on each other and fall back on each other in times of weakness and boost each other up in times of strength. Joey (Meier), my spotter, had my back on that and Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) had my back on the pit calls, giving me a fast car. Obviously, it’s my job to do all I could do to stay out of all the wrecks today. That’s why we’re in the position that we’re in.”
It was Keselowski’s 23rd top-10 finish of the season. Despite the 20-point advantage, he knows the team has to close the deal. “Quite honestly those same things could happen to us,” he said. “We could have a flat tire next week and put him right back in it. That’s why you never count anything until it’s over. Nothing is over until it’s over. We just need to keep our heads down and focus on what lays ahead.”
Sam Hornish Jr. was having a respectable run on the lead lap in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger until an accident ended his day on lap 301. Hornish was credited with a 31st-place finish in the final rundown.
Denny Hamlin finished second to Harvick with Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman rounding out the top five.
NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES (NNS)
Phoenix International Raceway has earned a new moniker – treacherous. Just ask the drivers competing in Saturday’s Nationwide race at the one-mile track.
There were 10 cautions in the race scheduled for 200 laps but extended beyond the scheduled distance for a green-white-checkered finish. Ironically, the first eight yellows were for single-car spins. The final two were for accidents and only the final caution involved more than one race car. Eight of the cautions were for incidents in Turn 4.
Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. saw potential top-five finishes slip away late in the race. Keselowski had a tire issue while Hornish was one of the drivers losing traction and going for a spin.
Keselowski took the lead on lap 122 and held the top spot for 32 laps. He lined up second on the outside for the restart following the sixth caution of the race on lap 154 but went wide as the field went through Turns 1 and 2, losing several positions in the process. By the time he recovered, the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger had fallen back to 12th.
Thanks to a flurry of cautions (four more over the final 50 laps) and another pit stop for a set of tires, Keselowski was able to slice his way through traffic and finish ninth. Over the final 44 laps, he passed 13 cars to claim his 14th top-10 in 21 starts this season.
Jeremy Bullins, Keselowski’s crew chief said that one bright spot during the afternoon was the performance of the No. 22 team’s pit crew. “A great day by the pit crew,” he said. “We had a strategy going in and executed it. They did a great job today.
“Obviously that restart didn’t go our way and we battled to come back from there. We got a top 10 out of it. We had a good car, just one of those days where we didn’t get everything out of it.”
Hornish was running seventh in the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge when he went for a spin down the backstretch on lap 157, bringing out the seventh caution of the race. Hornish restarted 24th and a lap down but regained the lost distance 18 laps later with the free pass. Like Keselowski, Hornish picked off several positions in the final stages of the race – 10 over the final 22 laps. He finished 14th.
“The 54 (Kyle Busch), I don’t know if he got loose or what happened, but he hit us in the left-rear and turned us around,” said Hornish. “The positive out of it was that he hit me hard enough that it just spun us. I never had any time to catch it. We got a little bit of damage from the tire being flattened, lost a lap and didn’t get back on the lead lap until 20 to go. The Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger was a handful at times and it was pretty good at times. We never got the consistency where we needed it.”
Joey Logano led a race-high 168 laps and claimed the win, his ninth of the year in the series. Brian Vickers was second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third. In the battle for the season championship, Stenhouse now has a 20-point lead over Elliott Sadler who finished 22nd after being involved in the three-car mishap which extended the race beyond the scheduled distance.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES (NCWTS)
Ryan Blaney wasn’t exempt in the wreck-filled truck race Friday night at Phoenix International Speedway. However, he was a survivor and finished fifth.
Half of the drivers in the 36-truck field were involved in mishaps. In a span of 114 laps, the recently-repaved surface became extremely slippery. Trucks were careening off the walls and each other, bringing out nine caution flags. Four consecutive restarts were halted by wrecks. A red flag was needed at one point to clear the debris. To determine a winner, the race was extended beyond the scheduled 150-lap distance for a green-white-checkered finish.
Blaney was involved in a three-truck mishap on the frontstretch on lap 104. Damage to the No. 29 Draw-Tite RAM was minor. Although he rallied for a top-five finish, the opportunity to compete for the win had vanished. It was his third top-five in nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts this season.
“There was a wreck in front of us and I couldn’t get stopped in time,” said Blaney. “We kind of hit the 74 (Harmon) a little bit. I’m proud of these guys. We had a really fast RAM and I hate we tore it up a little bit. There’s nothing we could do. We qualified second and we were running up there all night. At least we know we had a very fast truck.”
David Mayhew finished 12th in the second truck from Brad Keselowski Racing, the No. 19 MMI/Steak and Grape RAM. He started 13th and worked his way up to eighth during the early stages of the race until handling issues plagued the team the rest of the night.
“It’s really frustrating because we really didn’t turn a wrench on the truck all night and it went from being really good to really loose,” said Jeff Stankiewicz, Mayhew’s crew chief. “I just feel really bad for Mayhew. He’s done a really good job for us all year. I wish I had an opportunity to run some more with him because he’s a really talented driver.”
Brian Scott passed Kyle Larson on the restart for the green-white-checkered finish to win the race, his second in 62 career starts in the series. Rounding out the top five were Joey Coulter, Timothy Peters and Blaney. James Buescher leads the championship standings by 11 points over Peters and is 12 ahead of third-place Ty Dillon entering the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
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