NNS: Keselowski dominates but finishes 2nd after speeding penalty

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Brad Keselowski was the class of the field in tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Kentucky Speedway, but one mistake may have cost him the win.

Driving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford that he and Ryan Blaney drove to Nationwide wins on the 1.5-mile oval last season, Keselowski led a race-high 138 laps and was pacing the field when he made a green-flag pit stop at Lap 149.

But the former Sprint Cup champion was tagged for speeding on pit road and forced to serve a drive-through penalty.

That sent him out of the Top 15, but hard driving and multiple late cautions gave him a chance to pull off a comeback before he finally came up short in second behind winner Kevin Harvick.

“It’s just part of the job,” Keselowski said about regrouping after the penalty. “It’s a high-stress environment inside of a race car, and it’s our job to deal with it if we’re going to be professional and win races and be competitive.

“I’ve gone through some adversity before, and that’s not the worst thing in the world that can happen to you. We got through it the best we could – obviously, not quite good enough with finishing second – but still, pretty well.”

After serving the penalty, Keselowski took a restart with 39 laps remaining in 17th but quickly charged into the Top 10. Three more cautions came out during the remainder of the race, which played into his hands as he was able to keep moving up the pylon.

On the final restart with four to go, Keselowski moved from fourth to get past Paul Menard and then Kyle Busch for second. But Harvick had too much car in the waning moments.

“I thought Kevin at the end was just as fast, if not a touch faster,” Keselowski conceded. “We had a really good, dominant daytime car, but with the race finishing at night, we were all probably equal then.

When asked if he could have reeled in Harvick with 10 more laps, Keselowski replied in the negative.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “We weren’t really gaining on him. He looked pretty good.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.