Paul Menard benefits from Joey Logano’s misfortune, wins Nationwide race at Michigan

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Sprint Cup regular Paul Menard earned his second career Nationwide Series victory (and first since 2006), capturing Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International.

“Man, it’s good to be back to victory lane,” Menard told ESPN after the race. “Win No. 2 and I think we finished second or third a ton the last couple years, so this feels good.”

Menard led just 18 of the event’s 125 laps, but the big story of his win was being in the right place at the right time.

With five laps to go, race-leader Joey Logano was forced to pit after suffering a flat right rear tire, costing him the win and allowing Menard to assume the lead, holding on for the checkered flag.

“I ran over something at some point, it pretty much sucks,” said Logano, who finished 16th. “We had a real good Ford the whole race. … I hate giving them away like that, you know. To look for the silver lining, we had a fast race car and we should have won the race. You win some this way, and you lose some this way, and today we lost one that way.

“That’s racing for you. Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.”

Menard, who has one career Sprint Cup win (2011 Indianapolis), could empathize with Logano’s frustration, as he has been in that spot a few times himself.

“I was trying to run him down, we were catching up just a little bit, but I wasn’t going to get him,” Menard said of Logano. “I thought that the best car was going to finish second again. We had this happen to us a couple of times last year. … The best car won today. … I hate to wish bad luck on Joey, but we’ll take it.”

Sam Hornish Jr. finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. (making his final appearance on the Nationwide circuit this season), pole-sitter Kyle Busch and Brian Scott in fifth.

Sixth through 10th were Chase Elliott, Regan Smith, Kyle Larson, Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher.

With less than 25 laps, Elliott Sadler was running second when a large piece of debris became wedged in the front end of his Toyota. Sadler tried to get behind Earnhardt to hopefully suck the debris off the grill, but it didn’t work.

As a result, Sadler was forced to pit to remove the debris, which was causing his motor to be on the verge of overheating, and went from second-place to 23rd upon exiting pit road, albeit still on the lead lap.

The only significant wreck in the race occurred on Lap 80 when Trevor Bayne and Dylan Kwasniewski got together. It appeared Kwasniewski’s car wiggled and then slid up into Bayne, putting both of their cars into the wall.

Kwasniewski, who turned 19 two weeks ago, continues to struggle in his rookie season on the Nationwide series circuit. He’s managed just one top-10 finish in 13 starts, and Saturday is now his third DNF in 2014.

Regan Smith continued to hold on to his lead in the season standings, increasing his edge to 14 points over second-ranked Elliott Sadler (unofficial points standings are listed below Saturday’s race finishing order).

The series moves to Road America in Wisconsin next Saturday, followed by Kentucky Speedway on June 27, Daytona on July 4, New Hampshire on July 12 and Chicagoland on July 19.

 

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Here’s the finishing order for Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway:

1 Paul Menard

2 Sam Hornish Jr.

3 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

4 Kyle Busch

5 Brian Scott

6 Chase Elliott

7 Regan Smith

8 Kyle Larson

9 Ty Dillon

10 Chris Buescher

 

11 Ryan Reed

12 Ross Chastain

13 Ryan Sieg

14 Landon Cassill

15 James Buescher

16 Joey Logano

17 Elliott Sadler

18 Mike Bliss

19 Dakoda Armstrong

20 Jeremy Clements

 

21 JJ Yeley

22 Brendan Gaughan

23 Jeff Green

24 Blake Koch

25 Jeffrey Earnhardt

26 Josh Wise

27 Joey Gase

28 Mike Harmon

29 Ryan Ellis

30 Trevor Bayne

 

31 Dylan Kwasniewski

32 Harrison Rhodes

33 Jamie Dick

34 Carl Long

35 Derrike Cope

36 Tanner Berryhill

37 Matt Carter

38 Tommy Joe Martins

39 Kevin Lepage

40 Tim Schendel

 

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Unofficial Nationwide Series points standings after Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway:

1 Regan Smith

2 Elliott Sadler -14

3 Chase Elliott -20

4 Ty Dillon -35

5 Trevor Bayne -50

6 Brian Scott -55

7 Brendan Gaughan -122

8 Chris Buescher -123

9 James Buescher -124

10 Ryan Reed -152

 

11 Landon Cassill -153

12 Dylan Kwasniewski -169

13 Dakoda Armstrong -171

14 Mike Bliss -175

15 Jeremy Clements -225

16 Jeffrey Earnhardt -240

17 JJ Yeley -249

18 Joey Gase -264

19 Ryan Sieg -280

20 Eric McClure -282

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NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

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The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

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Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

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When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

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Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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