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.”

MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

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