Kentucky has been “Keselowski Country”

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Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski is still looking for his first win of 2013, but Kentucky Speedway – site of tonight’s 400-miler for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – has been very good to him recently.

Last night, Keselowski took the checkered flag in the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ event on the 1.5-mile oval, which should give him confidence as he seeks to defend his Quaker State 400 title. His Cup win last year at Kentucky triggered a strong run of seven consecutive Top-10 finishes, which propelled him into the Chase and sent him off toward his championship.

This time around, Keselowski is once again trying to stabilize his Chase chances after a rough stretch that has seen him post just one Top-10 result in the last eight races. He currently sits ninth in the standings, but a victory would go a long way in making sure he’ll have the chance to contend for a second Cup title.

And anytime Keselowski hits the track at Kentucky, a victory is a legitimate possibility. He has finished in the Top-10 in both of Kentucky’s Cup races, leading a combined total of 147 laps in those events.

To him, his experience on the 1.5-mile oval across both the Cup and Nationwide series has been critical to his success there.

“I think one of the things I like about Kentucky is that it is one of the few tracks that I have always felt kind of heads up to the field,” Keselowski said on Friday.” I guess to elaborate on that, this is my fourth full year in Sprint Cup and in some ways, it feels like I have been here forever and in some ways, it feels like I haven’t.

“When you go to tracks like Texas and Atlanta and places like that where there are a fair amount of drivers with more experience than I do, I always feel like I am that one little step behind. Here at Kentucky, there is no driver that has more experience than me. We are on an even footing all the way. In fact, if anything, I feel like I might be slightly up because I have a couple more Nationwide starts and so forth. I think that leads to some of my comfort here.”

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.