Richmond Update: Brad Keselowski strong so far

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Brad Keselowski has already led more than 100 laps and was the halfway leader in tonight’s Toyota Owners 400 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The race started with a bang as Clint Bowyer sought to take the lead from pole sitter Kyle Larson on the first turn of the first lap – only to wind up spinning Larson out.

While Larson got started on trying to return to the front, Brad Keselowski led at the restart on Lap 8 and held the point until Harvick, the defending spring race winner at Richmond, assumed control at Lap 32.

Despite an odd run-in on the backstretch with Josh Wise a few laps later, Harvick would lead as the competition caution for tire wear came out at Lap 40.

Harvick was the first out of the pits and thus led the field back to green at Lap 47, only to have Keselowski reclaim P1 on Lap 55. The 2012 Cup Series champion would pace the field all the way to Lap 99, when the caution came out for debris on the frontstretch – and just a few laps after Bowyer pitted under green for what he thought was a tire going down.

Another round of stops ensued with Keselowski tumbling to sixth, while Jeff Gordon picked up the lead in time for the Lap 105 restart. Keselowski steadily rose back toward the front though and went past Harvick for second at Lap 135.

On Lap 158, rookie Cole Whitt began to slow down with right front tire issues. He was able to get off the track but upon his return, he left behind bits of burning rubber at the end of pit road, causing NASCAR to throw the caution at Lap 161.

At that point, Bowyer also pitted with his right-front wheel well on fire, which ultimately did enough damage to that area of his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota that the team opted to pull him behind the wall.

The pits opened on Lap 166 and Gordon and Keselowski maintained first and second respectively after their stops. Gordon, who sometimes struggles in restart situations, appeared to have pushed Keselowski behind him following the return to green at Lap 171.

But two laps later, Keselowski dusted Gordon on the backstretch to once again take the lead. Joey Logano briefly took second from Gordon as well, but the four-time Cup champion got the spot back before the halfway point.

At Lap 200, Keselowski held a lead of eight-tenths of a second on Gordon. Logano was third, followed by Harvick in fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth.

As for Larson, he’s made a steady climb after his Lap 1 disaster and sat 20th at halfway.

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.