NNS: Keselowski dominates but finishes 2nd after speeding penalty

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Brad Keselowski was the class of the field in tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Kentucky Speedway, but one mistake may have cost him the win.

Driving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford that he and Ryan Blaney drove to Nationwide wins on the 1.5-mile oval last season, Keselowski led a race-high 138 laps and was pacing the field when he made a green-flag pit stop at Lap 149.

But the former Sprint Cup champion was tagged for speeding on pit road and forced to serve a drive-through penalty.

That sent him out of the Top 15, but hard driving and multiple late cautions gave him a chance to pull off a comeback before he finally came up short in second behind winner Kevin Harvick.

“It’s just part of the job,” Keselowski said about regrouping after the penalty. “It’s a high-stress environment inside of a race car, and it’s our job to deal with it if we’re going to be professional and win races and be competitive.

“I’ve gone through some adversity before, and that’s not the worst thing in the world that can happen to you. We got through it the best we could – obviously, not quite good enough with finishing second – but still, pretty well.”

After serving the penalty, Keselowski took a restart with 39 laps remaining in 17th but quickly charged into the Top 10. Three more cautions came out during the remainder of the race, which played into his hands as he was able to keep moving up the pylon.

On the final restart with four to go, Keselowski moved from fourth to get past Paul Menard and then Kyle Busch for second. But Harvick had too much car in the waning moments.

“I thought Kevin at the end was just as fast, if not a touch faster,” Keselowski conceded. “We had a really good, dominant daytime car, but with the race finishing at night, we were all probably equal then.

When asked if he could have reeled in Harvick with 10 more laps, Keselowski replied in the negative.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “We weren’t really gaining on him. He looked pretty good.”

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”