Keselowski not worried about criticism after Talladega crash

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Brad Keselowski’s hard-charging ways haven’t always been the most popular, and that certainly wasn’t the case last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Keselowski was multiple laps down in the Aaron’s 499 but was still racing among the leaders in a bid to get those laps back. But with 50 laps to go, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion spun and triggered a 14-car pileup.

But the Team Penske driver said yesterday at Kansas Speedway that he wasn’t worried about the heat he’s taken from fellow drivers and fans on why he was racing so hard at the time.

“I got in a wreck at a plate track and I caused it – [it’s] like I am the first one to ever do that or something,” he said after qualifying third for tonight’s 5-Hour Energy 400.

“Wrecking is never fun but it happens and that is just part of racing. Anyone that doesn’t see it that way obviously has a set of biases that [ensures] they can’t make a rational judgment, so I don’t worry about their criticism.”

Defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said that he probably would’ve chosen to ride toward the back if he were multiple laps down like Keselowski was.

However, Keselowski himself disagreed with that sentiment.

“We all hold the steering wheel and there are 43 of us and we all hold it differently and make different decisions,” Keselowski said. “It would be quite lame to watch if we all did the same thing and had the same ideas and personas.

“I would say in most cases, I probably wouldn’t have done that. But in that case, I felt like it was the proper thing to do with having the potential to race the 1 car [Jamie McMurray] and get back in sequence.

“If we would have gotten back in sequence, we could have had a shot at winning the race with three or four yellows. I wasn’t ready to give up. I don’t feel like my team gave up on me and it is my job to not give up on them.”

Keselowski will try to put the ‘Dega incident behind him tonight on the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas. Team Penske has split the season’s first two races on 1.5-milers, with Keselowski winning at Las Vegas and teammate Joey Logano winning at Texas.

Logano starts second this evening next to pole sitter Kevin Harvick.

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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