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.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/