Brad Keselowski storms to dominating NNS win at Loudon

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Brad Keselowski dominated en route to victory in Saturday’s 25th Sta-Green 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski led 153 of the 200 laps, holding off Kyle Busch, who led 34 laps but was forced to conserve fuel in the final 15 laps and just didn’t have enough to catch the race winner.

“It was actually hard-fought at the end there,” Keselowski told ESPN. “(Kyle) was really good. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold him off. … It’s another win for Team Penske and I’m real proud to be part of it.”

Keselowski earned the 29th win and 100th top-five finish of his NNS career in 211 starts in NASCAR’s junior league.

Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher.

Sixth through 10th were Elliott Sadler, Brian Scott, Chase Elliott, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith.

Smith was the highest finishing driver in the Nationwide Series Dash-4-Cash contest, earning $100,000.

A wreck involving several drivers occurred on Lap 107 of the 200-lap event. Elliott Sadler was tapped from behind by Brian Scott, causing Sadler to spin out.

“I hate that I got into (Sadler) and caused that mix-up,” Scott said. “It was just my fault. I had a good roll going on the inside. … They checked up and I just got into them. I apologize, I think (Sadler) knows I don’t really race like that and we’ll be good.”

Added Sadler, “We got spun and lost a couple positions. … It was a tough weekend, I’m not going to lie. We battled all weekend, but to make the Dash-4-Cash (for next week’s race at Chicagoland Speedway) and to finish sixth, we’ll take that and move on to Chicago.”

Also being collected in the Scott-Sadler imbroglio were Paul Menard (his second wreck of the day; was involved in a minor wreck with Chase Elliott on Lap 102), James Buescher, Dakoda Armstrong, Carlos Contreras and Austin Theriault.

Here’s the final finishing order of Saturday’s Sta-Green 200 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

1 Brad Keselowski

2 Kyle Busch

3 Matt Kenseth

4 Kyle Larson

5 Chris Buescher

6 Elliott Sadler

7 Brian Scott

8 Chase Elliott

9 Trevor Bayne

10 Regan Smith

11 Ryan Reed

12 Ty Dillon

13 Dylan Kwasniewski

14 Ryan Preece

15 Landon Cassill

16 Brendan Gaughan

17 JJ Yeley

18 Ryan Sieg

19 Paul Menard

20 Jeremy Clements

21 Austin Theriault

22 James Buescher

23 Jeffrey Earnhardt

24 Brennan Newberry

25 Matt Frahm

26 Eric McClure

27 Tanner Berryhill

28 Derrike Cope

29 Joey Gase

30 Dakoda Armstrong

31 Jake Crum

32 Mike Bliss

33 Kevin Lepage

34 Josh Reaume

35 Carlos Contreras

36 Ryan Ellis

37 Harrison Rhodes

38 Josh Wise

39 Blake Koch

40 Matt DiBenedetto

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Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”