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.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”