No miracle for Keselowski, who misses out on post-season

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have a new champion in 2013.

Brad Keselowski led a race-high 142 laps on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway, but ultimately faded to a disappointing 17th-place result on a night where he needed to win in order to have any hope of a spot in the Chase.

“We were pretty good at the start and led a lot of laps…But we just weren’t strong enough to really stay up there,” Keselowski said. “We needed clean air to really run well and once we lost that, we just weren’t strong enough.”

Saturday may well have been a microcosm of Keselowski’s season, which has seen him show blazing speed at times but also extended periods of inconsistency as well.

After taking the lead twice for short periods in the opening stages, Keselowski settled in for a longer run up front after passing Jamie McMurray for the point following a restart at Lap 143.

He would repeatedly lose and regain the lead as the race went across the halfway mark, but was still running second with 100 laps to go in the 400-lap event. Then, it seemed his car began to get away from him as he started to slip down the running order.

A run-in with Kevin Harvick caused Keselowski to declare over his team’s radio that he would “use the [expletive] out of the 29 [Harvick]” once he got new tires. But by the time he got those fresh Goodyears during a stop with 60 laps left, he had already lost critical track position.

“That is just the way our cars have been this year,” he said. “They haven’t been good enough and we haven’t executed as well as we needed to. We have work to do.

“At the end of the day, the thing about points is it is the best measuring stick in sports. You know who deserves to be where because the results speak for themselves. We didn’t have enough results to get where we needed to be.”

Keselowski has now become the second defending champion to miss out on the Chase the following season since its inception in 2004. It will be interesting to see how much support he’ll give Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano, who did manage to clinch a Chase berth in Richmond.

For his part, Logano believes that Keselowski will make a return to Victory Lane before the year is out. But he needed to do that on Saturday night, and couldn’t.

“I don’t really have any emotions right now,” Keselowski said. “We weren’t good enough to make it and we didn’t. That is the reality.”

A cold, hard reality.

Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”