Brad Keselowski

Not quite Penske perfect, as late speeding penalty ends Keselowski’s chances

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After being given a second chance to reel in Team Penske teammate Joey Logano thanks to a caution with two laps to go, Brad Keselowski appeared ready for one last surge.

While the former Sprint Cup champion had fallen from second to fourth after pit stops leading up to the green-white-checkered finish, he had followed Logano’s lead and taken four tires; new leaders Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers had went with two.

But the advantage of fresh rubber, along with his chances of becoming the first repeat winner in the 2014 Cup season, were dashed when NASCAR informed him and the No. 2 team that he’d been caught speeding on pit road.

Forced to start at the tail end of the longest line, Keselowski would wind up coming home in 15th after leading 85 laps, second-highest among the leaders in today’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Logano, starting third on the final restart, would charge past Vickers and then Gordon on the final lap to win the race.

“That last caution was a shame,” Keselowski said afterwards. “I was just trying to get a little too much on pit road and wanted to get us out front to be able to win the race and tried a little too hard.

“[It was] a normal pit road deal. We’re in it for wins. We’re not in it for finishing second. Second or 15th is the same for us, so you’ve got to go for the win.”

Keselowski’s day began strangely, when the side of his hood popped up as a result of going past one of the powerful jet dryers that were getting rid of stray wet spots on the track leading up to the start.

Multiple other drivers had the same issue with their hood flaps, but Keselowski’s episode seemed the most serious. After several stops in the pits under the 10-lap green/yellow segment that opened the race, his crew eventually taped down both sides of the hood and that was that.

However, NASCAR chose to have those affected by the jet dryers be able to keep their original starting spots, meaning that Keselowski could begin the race from the front row alongside pole sitter Tony Stewart.

“I was definitely wondering what happened,” Keselowski said about the situation. “I knew it was the jet dryer that caused it, but it was one of those freak deals.”

When the race finally got underway, Keselowski stayed within striking distance until he was able to take the lead from Stewart at Lap 77. He would stay ahead through a cycle of green flag stops but lost the point to Denny Hamlin at Lap 122.

Still, Keselowski remained competitive and would find himself in the lead once more by clearing Jeff Gordon off of Turn 2 on Lap 184.

But on a later restart at Lap 227, Keselowski was jumped by Logano for P1 and from there, it effectively became Logano’s race to lose until Kurt Busch’s tire came apart and put debris on the track with two laps left.

Fortunately for Logano, he had enough car to ensure that he would indeed be triumphant in the end.

“Joey was just awesome today. He had a great car and did a great job,” said Keselowski. “…We just needed a little bit more for [Logano], but had a really good day going all the way until the end.

RC Enerson back in Coyne’s No. 19 car for Watkins Glen, Sonoma

Enerson. Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar
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This will come as little to no surprise given his impressive debut at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but RC Enerson will continue in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda at the final two races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. The team confirmed this at Pocono to NBC Sports and others.

Enerson will take over the Boy Scouts of America entry at the two permanent road courses at Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway. Enerson hasn’t raced at Watkins Glen but did test there in August.

Meanwhile he won a Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda race at Sonoma in 2014 and nearly snatched that series championship at the final weekend, before being edged by Frenchman Florian Latorre. He should test at Sonoma before racing there.

The 19-year-old Floridian could have made it out of Q1 in his IndyCar debut at Mid-Ohio and ran in the top-10 in the early stages at the Honda Indy 200 before a bad pit stop saw his race go awry. Nonetheless, he had the third fastest race lap and arguably the best 19th place finish in recent memory.

Enerson will have had three starts in the No. 19 car this year, as one of four drivers in the seat. Gabby Chaves has had seven, following the conclusion of Texas on Saturday, with Luca Filippi five and Pippa Mann one (Pocono).

F1 Paddock Pass: Belgian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28:  Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo leads Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP), Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP), Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer and the rest of the field at the start during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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An at-times chaotic Belgian Grand Prix has kicked off the run to the finish of the 2016 Formula One season, with Nico Rosberg winning and Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both turning in great drives from the rear of the field to the points.

Meanwhile Daniel Ricciardo got his countryman Mark Webber to do a “shoey,” Max Verstappen squared off with the Ferrari boys again, and Kevin Magnussen survived a heavy accident exiting Eau Rouge largely unscathed.

It’s all those elements and then some that make up the post-race edition of Paddock Pass, the NBC Sports Group original digital series, from Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

NBCSN F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales check in below. You can see all three parts below.

Wild and fearless Verstappen is just what Formula One needs

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer on track during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) He’s very fast, very young and very confident. He races on the limit, upsets other drivers and cares little when he does. He’s also great for Formula One.

Max Verstappen may not be winning many friends among other drivers – especially those from Ferrari – but his aggressive, unapologetic, fearless driving is wonderfully entertaining for fans.

The 18-year-old Dutchman is the youngest to win a race and to start from the front row of the grid, and he’s also just what F1 needs in an era of fading former champions.

Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button are all in their mid-30s. Although three-time champion Lewis Hamilton is clearly very much on top of his game, and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg is highly competitive, both drivers are 31.

Verstappen’s star factor drew more than 20,000 Dutch fans to the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend. Legions of orange-clad fans queued at the entry gates. Dutch flags were dotted around the Spa grandstands.

“He is refreshing for me. He is a young boy that I like a lot,” Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. “He comes in here, no fear, no respect. He puts the elbow out and it reminds me of the great ones. It reminds me of Lewis and it reminds me of Ayrton Senna.”

High praise indeed, from Wolff, who might have added that Verstappen also has some of the brashness that typified seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher. Wolff has expressed regret that Mercedes was not able to snap Verstappen up before Toro Rosso did last year.

“You can clearly see that some guys around are starting to think twice how to overtake him,” Wolff said, before adding a note of caution about Verstappen’s high-risk driving. “I just fear that it might end up in the wall heavily one day. For me it is refreshing, but it is dangerous.”

In May, Verstappen drove brilliantly to win the Spanish GP on his Red Bull debut – joining from feeder team Toro Rosso after just four races of this season – and he followed that up with three more podium finishes.

At the Belgian GP, his second place in qualifying set another record as the youngest driver ever to start on a front row of the grid.

His talent is unquestionable, but his attitude is, and the feeling in F1 circles is that Verstappen’s tender age means he gets away with things that other drivers do not.

“The FIA has not penalized him. The only thing that happened was that he was given a hard time in the drivers’ briefing,” Wolff said. “Maybe next time he will have an even harder time in the driver briefing.”

Especially from Raikkonen and his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen criticized him after last month’s Hungarian GP and again after the Belgian GP.

There was a high-profile tangle between Verstappen and both Ferraris on the first turn on Sunday. Later in the race, Verstappen infuriated Raikkonen with some aggressive blocking moves when the 36-year-old Finn tried to get past him at high speed.

“Maybe it needs an accident before things get more clear to everybody,” Raikkonen said. “Hopefully not because it can be bad for somebody, and nobody wants to see something like that happen.”

Verstappen, however, appears to care little for reputation, does not get pushed around, and his vitriolic words match the intensity of his driving.

Blaming Ferrari, he was quoted as telling Dutch TV after Sunday’s race “I’m not going to let them past, I’d rather force them off the track,” reportedly adding “in the end I’m the victim.”

Bourdais completes oval season with fifth oval top-10 this year

during the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.
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Sebastien Bourdais is known as a road and street course ace, but the talented Frenchman and four-time Champ Car series champion had his best season on ovals in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign.

The 37-year-old Frenchman banked his fifth top-10 in as many oval starts this year in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet when he ended 10th at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night in the rain-delayed and restarted Firestone 600. He qualified 18th, made it to 11th by the Lap 71 restart order, then hung close to the top-10 before ending 10th on Saturday night.

That result follows his first superspeedway top-five finish achieved since his IndyCar return in 2011 on Monday in Pocono, with fifth, and other results of eighth (Phoenix), ninth (Indianapolis 500) and eighth (Iowa) in the first three oval races.

Bourdais joins Tony Kanaan and Will Power as the three drivers this season who finished in the top-10 in all five oval races. Power and Kanaan were among the top scorers on ovals this year, via Trackside Online:

And for Bourdais, it’s his best oval season from a consistency standpoint since coming to North America and starting in Champ Car in 2003.

While he won at least one oval race in 2003, 2004 and 2006 in limited oval starts (no more than two oval races per year), he hasn’t had as much success on the ovals since his 2011 series return.

In 2013, his first full season back, he didn’t have a single top-10 in six oval races. That number only improved to one top-10 in six starts in 2014, his first year with KVSH Racing. Last year, he only had two oval top-10s in six starts (won Milwaukee, ninth at Iowa).

So that’s five-for-five in 2016 compared to three-for-18 in the last three years.

Good thing is, Bourdais’ expectations have grown so much on the ovals that despite the results improvement, he still felt – like at Pocono – there was more to be achieved.

”It was a tough night for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team,” Bourdais said post-race. “We knew we were going to be on the shy side with the downforce level because that was the way it was when we were here in June. At that time we didn’t anticipate that everyone else would stack up on downforce and we didn’t have some of the parts we needed. So, of course, we had to restart that way, which was quite frustrating honestly.

“I knew it was going to be tough in the beginning and it sure was in traffic. I was basically just trying to stay out of trouble and manage my tires. Then during the second stint when it stretched out, I went for it and after 15 laps the tires disintegrated and the car got very loose on my own. I was out of adjustments, so we had to make an earlier pit stop, which destroyed our race.

“After that we corrected. We were still not good in traffic, but could hold some decent speeds…204 (mph), 205 even toward the end of our stint. Unfortunately, the leaders were running 207, 208 and there was nothing we could do about it, so I went a couple of laps down.

“We fought our way through the race, but it is definitely not fun when you have to be that passive, just hanging on and trying to bring it home. The good news is we finished in the top-10 on all the ovals this year so we have made progress.”

After this result, Bourdais sits 14th in points, but is only 27 markers behind Charlie Kimball in 10th.