If things would have gone a bit more his way in five particular races thus far this season, Brad Keselowski could theoretically be running away with the Sprint Cup points lead right now.
But instead of hoped-for wins, Keselowski came up short at those five races, finishing third at Daytona and Phoenix, fourth at Richmond, second last week at Dover and – much to his chagrin – second again in Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Keselowski dominated the Pocono race, leading 95 of the 160 laps, but debris on the grill of his Team Penske Ford late in the race caused his car to start overheating.
“The car was real hot,” Keselowski told TNT. “We had a really fast Ford. Just got a big piece of debris on the grill and I had to do something or it was going to blow up.”
He didn’t want to take a chance that the motor would grenade, so in an effort to suck the debris off the grill, he got behind the lapped car of Danica Patrick.
Unfortunately, Keselowski lost momentum when Patrick slowed unexpectedly, allowing Dale Earnhardt Jr. to motor on to the victory, with Keselowski ultimately winding up in second place.
“I tried to make a move to get behind the 10 (Patrick) and use the air to pull the debris off it,” Keselowski said. “But when she got into the corner, she got loose and I just chased her up there and lost too much momentum.
“I should have just passed her, but I had to do some kind of move. The car wasn’t going to make it. It was already starting to blow up. It was all I could do.
“Dale made a heck of a move to take advantage of it and that’s sometimes just how racing goes.”
But Keselowski can’t be all upset: he jumped three places from eighth to fifth in the Sprint Cup rankings after Sunday’s race at the 2.5-mile so-called Tricky Triangle at Pocono.
Keselowski hopes to avenge his shortcomings in those five races this coming weekend on his home track at Michigan International Speedway.
He’s never won a Cup event on MIS’s high speed two-mile oval. In fact, his results there have been less than inspiring: just two top-five finishes in nine starts there.
But Keselowski hopes to turn that trend around next Sunday.
“We’re hitting the summer stretch with a lot of momentum and I’m really proud of my team,” he said. “I just wish I would have executed a little better (Sunday) and got the win.
“I should have just ran it and seen if it would have blown up. I don’t think it would have made it – maybe it would have – but I didn’t want to do that to Doug Yates’ engine shop. It would have been unfair to them.
“We had a real good car, Dale and I were pretty equal, and he made the right move at the end.”
After the summer break, Formula One is back in action this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix. Live free practice two and the race occur on NBCSN while live qualifying will occur via live streaming on the NBC Sports app (link here); it will air Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Full details and times for the weekend are below:
FORMULA ONE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX – SUNDAY AT 7:30 A.M. ET ON NBCSN
NBC Sports Group continues its coverage of the 2016 Formula One Championship this Sunday with the Belgian Grand Prix, as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton aims for his fifth consecutive win and seventh victory in eight races. Hamilton now leads the drivers’ standings (217 points) by 19 points over teammate and rival Nico Rosberg (198 points) as he races towards a fourth career F1 season championship. Hamilton won last year’s race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the second Belgian GP win of his career (2010).
Live coverage begins exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app on Friday morning at 4 a.m. ET with Practice 1, followed by NBCSN’s live coverage of Practice 2 at 8 a.m. ET. Streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app continues Saturday at 5 a.m. ET with Practice 3 and live qualifying at 8 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air delayed coverage of qualifying on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.
Live Belgian Grand Prix coverage begins Sunday morning at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN with F1 Countdown, and is followed by F1 Extra at 10 a.m. ET.
Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call this weekend’s action, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter in Belgium.
But now, that race will continue, with the goal of registering 200 organ and tissue donors in Bryan’s memory, announced tonight.
“This has been such a bittersweet moment for our family,” said Tim Clauson, father of Bryan Clauson.
“We miss our son terribly. However, what has kept us going is the outpouring of support from the community and Bryan’s decision to be an organ donor. We have always been proud of him for the generous person he was. Being a donor saves lives and gives us hope to see Bryan continue to live on in the lives he has helped.”
Countless BC Forever tributes took place this past weekend at both Bristol Motor Speedway in NASCAR and Pocono Raceway in IndyCar. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one of Clauson’s closest friends, finished second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. His emotional interview is below.
“We thought we’d make it one more time and I’m pretty sure this will be the last race I ever run right here tonight, the last race period,” Kinser said. “I hadn’t been running many (races) this year and was planning on quitting anyway.
“I’m never going to say never but I’m pretty positive I’m going to watch Kraig (his son, also a racer), go to races and have some fun.”
The 62-year-old resident of Bloomington, Indiana is a 20-time World of Outlaws champion (won a record 577 races in the series), as well as more recently a stalwart on the All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series owned by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.
The 12-time Knoxville Nationals champ, whose last full-time season in the WoO was in 2014, has been racing a limited schedule both last season and in 2016.
While his career has been primarily in Sprint cars, Kinser also raced in other series including five times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, raced in the 1997 Indianapolis 500 (finished 14th) and in the IROC and USAC series.
Naturally, the social media world was all atwitter – no pun intended – about Kinser’s bombshell announcement:
BREAKING NEWS: Tonight at Lebanon Valley Speedway, Steve Kinser announced that tonight's @ASCoC race is likely the last of his career.
In Major League Baseball, the 4-5-6 batters are typically the meat of the batting order. It’s those three players that play one of the biggest parts in determining which team becomes the ultimate champion each season.
Now, 4-5-6 in the standings of the Verizon IndyCar Series is a bit of a different matter.
Sure, fourth-ranked Scott Dixon is a four-time IndyCar champ and Indianapolis 500 winner, fifth-ranked Helio Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 winner, and sixth-ranked Tony Kanaan is both a series champion and Indy 500 winner.
That sounds like an IndyCar equivalent of baseball’s Murderer’s Row, right?
But following Monday’s weather-rescheduled ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, the 4-5-6 drivers in the IndyCar Series rankings have three races left to hit nothing but home runs if they hope to throw a curveball into Simon Pagenaud’s and Will Power’s championship plans.
Six points separate the trio: Dixon has 386 points, 111 points short of Pagenaud (497 points, with Power a close second at 477 points). Castroneves has 384 (-113) and Kanaan has 380 (-117).
And let’s not forget about Josef Newgarden, sitting third at 397 points, exactly 100 markers behind Pagenaud and 80 points in arrears to Power. But Newgarden will almost certainly drop out of realistic contention with a last-place finish looming at Texas Motor Speedway after he crashed out in June, and won’t be able to restart.
The respective finishes of Dixon (sixth), Kanaan (ninth) and Castroneves (19th) at Pocono also didn’t help their championship chances, because Power won. Pagenaud failed to finish but still looms far ahead.
Right now, a maximum of 211 points is up for grabs in the remaining three races. That breaks down to 50 points each to the winner at Texas and Watkins Glen, and double points (100) to the winner of the season finale at Sonoma.
There’s also one point for the pole winner in each of the final three races, although Carlos Munoz will get that point at Texas since he got the pole there back in June.
In addition, each of the three remaining races – as all others – awards one point if a driver leads at least one lap and two points to the driver who leads the most laps.
Dixon climbed one position, from fifth to fourth, with his Pocono finish. But he knows time is running to defend last year’s championship – particularly with this being the last year for him with Target sponsorship.
Here’s what Dixon had to say after Pocono:
“We started in the rear of the field and that didn’t help our cause with the Target team. We got held up in the second to last restart and some lapped cars didn’t go when they should have and that really cost us in terms of track position for sure. We clawed our way back into the mix but with so many good cars out there it was hard to get all the way to the front to contend.”
Kanaan slipped slightly in the standings from fifth to sixth after his Pocono finish.
Here’s what Kanaan had to say afterwards:
“We just couldn’t catch a break during the race. Every time we’d make a run toward the front, something would go wrong. We had a mechanical issue that was affecting the fuel system and that caused a lot of problems for us. Then we lost a piece of our rear bumper pod that caused that last yellow. It just wasn’t our day.”
Lastly, Castroneves had a performance Monday that he’d rather forget. While he started strong (fourth), he was involved in a scary pit road crash not of his doing when Alexander Rossi and Charlie Kimball made contact.
Rossi, this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, bounced off Kimball’s car and ran over the top of Castroneves’ car as he was trying to leave his pit stall.
The tires on Rossi’s car made visible marks on the top of the cockpit of Castroneves’ car and then the car continued until it had climbed over and landed back on the pavement on all four wheels. Castroneves suffered a slight bruise to his right hand but was otherwise uninjured in the scary mishap.
But his hand isn’t the thing that really hurt. Castroneves’ resulting 19th place finish saw him drop from third to fifth in the standings. Given that he’s 117 points behind Pagenaud and 97 behind Power, his Team Penske teammate, Castroneves’ hopes for his elusive first career IndyCar championship are slim, indeed – unless perhaps he wins each of the next three races.
And that still may not be enough to win it all if Pagenaud and/or Power have strong finishes in at least two of those last three.
One thing’s for certain: neither Castroneves nor Dixon or Kanaan are giving up.
Here’s what Castroneves had to say about Monday’s race, the pit road incident, as well as moving on to Texas:
“Inside the car, I was actually more protected than what it looked like. Sometime people don’t realize the Verizon IndyCar Series are so much about safety and today is the proof of that.
“Very glad that nobody got hurt. It’s just a shame. The Hitachi Chevy was really having a good day and we just had another good pit stop when I was coming out of the pits.
“All of a sudden there was a car on top of me. It was a little strange to be honest. The Team Penske guys worked really hard to try and fix the car but there was a lot of damage.
“It’s certainly unfortunate because this will hurt us in the championship battle but our team will never give up. We’ll move on to Texas where, fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success.”