NNS: Keselowski hangs on, beats Kyle Busch in Vegas

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Brad Keselowski may have had the dominant car in today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but his drive to the checkered flag was anything but easy.

The 2012 Sprint Cup champion overshot his pit box during yellow-flag stops with around 50 laps to go and dropped from second to fifth.

Then, after charging back to the lead off a restart with 38 laps to go, his No. 22 Team Penske Ford began losing power in the last handful of laps – just as Vegas native Kyle Busch was charging towards him and just as the two were heading into heavy lapped traffic.

But Keselowski persevered and was able to keep Busch in his rear view mirror to claim a nail-biter in the Boyd Gaming 300 at LVMS, his first Nationwide win on the 1.5-mile oval.

“We found everything we could to make it hard,” Keselowski told ESPN in Victory Lane. “…These races aren’t getting any easier to win. I drove as hard as I could every lap knowing that Kyle was coming, especially at the end there. We were having some troubles with the engine there and I knew it was just a matter of time before he caught me.

“I was just trying to get through as much traffic as I could and extend that [gap] and counting down the laps. It felt good that everything worked out in the end.

Meanwhile, Busch was visibly disappointed with the near-miss after what had been a tough weekend for him and the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team.

Busch was forced to go to a backup car after crashing his primary in practice. He was still able to qualify seventh but was then sent to the rear of the field when NASCAR determined his team had made an unapproved adjustment to his car after the machines had been impounded after qualifying; the team had discovered a frayed alternator belt.

An undaunted Busch roared through the field, cracking the Top 10 within the first 20 laps. He would later find the lead during the race’s middle stages.

But on the aforementioned restart with 38 laps to go, Busch (on the outside lane) was jumped for first and second by both Keselowski and Chase Elliott. He was able to get back to P2 shortly after but while he was able to reel in Keselowski, he couldn’t get past him.

“I don’t know what caused us to lose the lead,” Busch said. “That was unfortunate. I think that was the race. Our car was super fast on the long run when guys would get their tires hot and use up everything. You could see guys hang with us for about 10-20 [laps] and from about 30 [laps] on, it was me better than the rest.

“The best motor won today, that’s for sure. Probably the best car – [Brad] was really good. But I don’t know. That’s all we had.”

Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson made contact early with the wall and had visible front-end damage on his No. 42 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet but still managed to finish third.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the current Sprint Cup points leader, was fourth and his JR Motorsports employee, NNS rookie Chase Elliott, finished fifth to claim his first NNS career Top-5.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”