Brad Keselowski storms to dominating NNS win at Loudon

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Brad Keselowski dominated en route to victory in Saturday’s 25th Sta-Green 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski led 153 of the 200 laps, holding off Kyle Busch, who led 34 laps but was forced to conserve fuel in the final 15 laps and just didn’t have enough to catch the race winner.

“It was actually hard-fought at the end there,” Keselowski told ESPN. “(Kyle) was really good. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold him off. … It’s another win for Team Penske and I’m real proud to be part of it.”

Keselowski earned the 29th win and 100th top-five finish of his NNS career in 211 starts in NASCAR’s junior league.

Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher.

Sixth through 10th were Elliott Sadler, Brian Scott, Chase Elliott, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith.

Smith was the highest finishing driver in the Nationwide Series Dash-4-Cash contest, earning $100,000.

A wreck involving several drivers occurred on Lap 107 of the 200-lap event. Elliott Sadler was tapped from behind by Brian Scott, causing Sadler to spin out.

“I hate that I got into (Sadler) and caused that mix-up,” Scott said. “It was just my fault. I had a good roll going on the inside. … They checked up and I just got into them. I apologize, I think (Sadler) knows I don’t really race like that and we’ll be good.”

Added Sadler, “We got spun and lost a couple positions. … It was a tough weekend, I’m not going to lie. We battled all weekend, but to make the Dash-4-Cash (for next week’s race at Chicagoland Speedway) and to finish sixth, we’ll take that and move on to Chicago.”

Also being collected in the Scott-Sadler imbroglio were Paul Menard (his second wreck of the day; was involved in a minor wreck with Chase Elliott on Lap 102), James Buescher, Dakoda Armstrong, Carlos Contreras and Austin Theriault.

Here’s the final finishing order of Saturday’s Sta-Green 200 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

1 Brad Keselowski

2 Kyle Busch

3 Matt Kenseth

4 Kyle Larson

5 Chris Buescher

6 Elliott Sadler

7 Brian Scott

8 Chase Elliott

9 Trevor Bayne

10 Regan Smith

11 Ryan Reed

12 Ty Dillon

13 Dylan Kwasniewski

14 Ryan Preece

15 Landon Cassill

16 Brendan Gaughan

17 JJ Yeley

18 Ryan Sieg

19 Paul Menard

20 Jeremy Clements

21 Austin Theriault

22 James Buescher

23 Jeffrey Earnhardt

24 Brennan Newberry

25 Matt Frahm

26 Eric McClure

27 Tanner Berryhill

28 Derrike Cope

29 Joey Gase

30 Dakoda Armstrong

31 Jake Crum

32 Mike Bliss

33 Kevin Lepage

34 Josh Reaume

35 Carlos Contreras

36 Ryan Ellis

37 Harrison Rhodes

38 Josh Wise

39 Blake Koch

40 Matt DiBenedetto

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Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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Honda Photo
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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500