Keselowski, Logano get regular crew chiefs back

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With two-race suspensions completed, the regular crew chiefs for Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are back on top of their respective war wagons this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Both drivers had parts confiscated from the rear ends of their cars before the April 13 event at Texas Motor Speedway. That led to NASCAR delivering massive penalties to their teams, with crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Keselowski) and Todd Gordon (Logano) initially hit with six-race suspensions. However, the suspensions for Wolfe and Gordon were later reduced to two-race spans, and now both of them are returning to action for Sunday’s FedEx400 benefiting Autism Speaks.

Perhaps Wolfe can help turn around Keselowski’s fortunes, which have not been very good as of late; the reigning Sprint Cup champion has fallen back to 10th in points after 32nd and 36th place finishes in the last two events at Darlington and Charlotte.

“It was tougher to deal with then what I thought it would be,” Wolfe said to the Associated Press about his suspension. “I am a hands-on kind of guy, and for me to be able to watch the car in practice and see how it runs around other cars is important for me, visually, to see that and make decisions on what changes to make.”

As for Keselowski, he believes that his team is ready to make a run up the table now that it is back at full strength with the return of Wolfe, as well as car chief Jerry Kelley and engineer Brian Wilson.

“Paul and I are like the quarterback and the head coach but it takes more than the quarterback and head coach and there was more than our head coach sitting out,” he said. “We lost our car chief and our head engineer too. Getting everyone back adds to the comfort level. I think we are going to have a strong few weeks, I really do.”

Logano was also happy to get his full team back as well, particularly Gordon.

“It’s been tough just talking with him away from the track and seeing him at the shop,” he said. “But the guys that filled in during the time he and everyone else was out did a great job. I think we really made the best of the situation and I don’t think we really missed a beat and that was obvious the last couple of weeks in Charlotte.

“But it will be nice having Todd back at the track for sure. I’m ready for things to get back to normal and focus on winning some of these races.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.