Brad Keselowski dominates, holds off Michael McDowell to earn NNS win at Iowa

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Brad Keselowski dominated, leading 146 laps to win Saturday night’s 250-lap U.S. Cellular 250 Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.

Keselowski earned his third NNS win of the season, his third career win at Iowa and his 30th career NNS triumph. Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. were the class of the field, with Hornish leading 65 laps.

“I thought Sam Hornish and Michael McDowell were good all night,” Keselowski said. “They were tough to beat. We gave it all we had, but it very easily could have turned out differently. … It’s great for the team and am real happy for them and glad to be part of it.”

Keselowski hopped a plane after Saturday afternoon’s final Sprint Cup practice at Pocono Raceway and headed to Iowa. And no sooner was Saturday night’s celebration over, Keselowski flew back to compete in Sunday’s Cup race back at Pocono.

“When Brad makes this trek across country, it’s for only one thing, and that’s to win,” said Keselowski’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins.

Hornish was second going into the final pit stop with eight laps to go after James Buescher’s spin brought out the caution flag. Hornish chose to take four tires and fuel that left him leaving pit road in seventh position.

Still, he managed to get back to fourth, falling short of his quest to win both NNS races at Iowa this season, having gone to victory lane in the first race there in May.

“It was the chance that we had to go out there and win,” Hornish said of the strategy on his final pit stop. “Maybe we would have got it with two, but I got us a little bit ahead of the track.

“It’s just one of those days. I’m real happy with the car they gave me, and maybe another two laps and we’d probably be back up to second.”

Michael McDowell finished second in the race. He took the lead from Keselowski on the final restart, but Keselowski got it back the following lap and pulled away for the win.

“We took two tires at the end, the crew got me out second,” McDowell said. “We came so close. A great run and I’m very blessed and thankful.”

Pole-sitter Trevor Bayne finished third and also won an extra $100,000 by being the final driver to win the Nationwide Insurance Dash-4-Cash contest that has taken place the last five races. Nationwide is leaving as series sponsor following this season.

Last week’s winner at Indianapolis, Ty Dillon, finished fifth. Regan Smith finished sixth, followed by Brian Scott, Chase Elliott, Dylan Kwasniewski and Elliott Sadler in 10th.

The overall points standings also tightened significantly. Elliott remains in first, but with just a two-point lead over Smith. Sadler and Dillon moved into a tie for third place, 12 points behind Elliott.

Hornish grabbed the lead on a restart on Lap 117, held on at the halfway point (Lap 125) and remained at the point until Keselowski took the lead back on Lap 164.

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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/