Tempers flare between Keselowski, Kyle Busch after NNS crash at Kansas

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Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway, but the bigger story from today’s event could stretch into tomorrow’s Sprint Cup race at the 1.5-mile oval.

That’s because on Lap 188 of 200, Kyle Busch got into the back of Brad Keselowski coming off of Turn 4 and sent him spinning into the front-stretch wall, rear end first.

Once Keselowski hopped out of his damaged No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, he ran across the infield grass while pointing toward Busch’s pit box then took a left and jogged toward the infield care center. Afterwards, Keselowski proceeded to rip Busch verbally.

“I got wrecked by a dirty driver,” Keselowski said. “There is no other way of putting it. He is cool with that. I have raced him really cool over the last year to be respectful to him and try to repair our relationship. I’ve watched him wreck my trucks and keep me from winning races. He put me in the fence in Chicago in the truck race and the Nationwide races, he has been pulling this crap.

“It is not gonna last, I can tell you that. I feel bad for the guys next to me that are going to have to fix his stuff. That is going to be part of racing and they are going to have to deal with it.”

According to the Associated Press, Busch maintained that his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota simply got tight coming off the corner, which forced the car to move up into Keselowski.

“It was hard racing,” Busch told the AP. “There were a lot of moments where I may be felt a little crowded. The contact that ultimately ended it, I just got real tight.”

One has to wonder if Keselowski will be out for revenge during tomorrow’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas, the fourth race in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup. If so, that could be trouble for Busch, who sits third in the Chase at 12 points behind teammate Matt Kenseth.

“He has a lot more to lose than I do,” Keselowski said per the AP. “I guess that’s the good thing about not being in the Chase.”

As for the NNS title battle, Austin Dillon has taken over the points lead with a sixth-place result this afternoon. He now leads the NNS standings by eight points over Sam Hornish Jr., who finished 17th after tagging the wall earlier in the race.

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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