Hendrick, Gibbs respond after accusations from Cup champ Keselowski

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After Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski accused his team, as well as Joe Gibbs Racing, of stealing information by poaching former Ford employees, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick (pictured) has fired back.

“Brad misrepresents the facts and spends a lot of time making insinuations and accusations about other teams when he should be focused on his own program and competing at a high level,” Hendrick said in a statement according to the Associated Press. “I hope he figures that out and begins representing himself and the sport with more class.”

On Thursday during a Ford employee event in Dearborn, Michigan, the outspoken champ accused Hendrick and JGR of what he called “a nasty little habit” – outbidding other teams for prime talent and then gaining the information they’re bringing to their new home – when asked about Ford’s efforts to strengthen communication between Penske Racing (Keselowski’s team) and Roush Fenway Racing.

“…When that happens, that puts walls up between the camps because you are giving up more than one piece of information – you are giving up two companies’ information – and trying to protect yourself against that, it forces you to put up walls,” Keselowski said on Thursday according to USA Today. “It doesn’t necessarily lend itself to working together.”

Yesterday at Michigan International Speedway, Keselowski opted not to expand upon his Thursday comments, only saying that he was talking about the Penske-Roush relationship and how “there will always be limitations” in regards to that because of other teams’ hiring practices.

A potentially bigger partnership between Penske and RFR has been talked about recently as the Blue Oval tries to improve its overall results. While one of its drivers, RFR’s Carl Edwards, is currently second in the Cup standings, Ford only has two victories this season from Edwards at Phoenix and David Ragan at Talladega.

As for JGR’s thoughts on the story, they too released a statement in which team owner Joe Gibbs chided Keselowski for making what he saw as misinformed claims.

“Clearly, those comments are misguided and irresponsible,” Gibbs said in the statement. “Brad’s candor is well documented, but he would do well to only speak to subjects on which he is properly informed.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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