Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon lead Chase opener at halfway point


JOLIET, Ill. – With 134 of the scheduled 267 laps complete, Brad Keselowski leads the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Keselowski is seeking his second win at the 1.5-mile track in three races. His win there in 2012 helped Keselowski not only kick off the Chase the right way, he also went on to win the championship nine races later.

Jeff Gordon is running second, followed by Kevin Harvick, who has rebounded from a pit road issue on Lap 69.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is up to fourth, while pole-sitter Kyle Busch is fifth.

Sixth through 10th are Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano.

Busch led the first 28 laps before falling back to third place. Jeff Gordon assumed the lead at that point, with Jamie McMurray a close second.

After getting close to Gordon, McMurray took over the front position on Lap 40. His lead was short-lived, however, as pit stops began two laps later.

McMurray pitted on Lap 44, yielding the lead to 2012 Chicago race winner Brad Keselowski.

At the same time, Kurt Busch came onto pit road too hot and spun sideways, losing a considerable amount of time waiting for traffic to get past him before he was able to get moving again.

To add insult to injury, Kurt Busch was assessed a commitment line penalty.

McMurray regained the lead on Lap 48 and held it until Lap 68, when the first caution was called for debris in Turn 2.

Kevin Harvick came onto pit road on Lap 69, but had to return a lap later due to a loose wheel.

The irony of that was Harvick is using teammate Tony Stewart’s crew in this race and the rest of the Chase because of the number of errors Harvick’s crew made in the first 26 pre-Chase races.

As a result, Harvick dropped more than a dozen spots to 21st.

On the restart, Kyle Busch rolled right back to the front of the pack to regain the lead.

On Lap 75, McMurray hit the Turn 2 wall hard but sustained minor damage that did not appear to harm his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Jeff Gordon regained the lead from Busch on Lap 88.

Ryan Newman’s car hit some debris on Lap 99 that cut his left rear tire and slowed dramatically (perhaps in an attempt to reach pit road, which he wasn’t able to do), prompting several cars to take evasive action to avoid a pile-up.

Newman limped his car to pit road and received new left side rubber.

McMurray took just two right side tires to get track position and regained the lead when the green flag fell on Lap 104.

Another Chase combatant, AJ Allmendinger, suffered his own problems when the shifter lever on his car broke.

“My hand may be bloody by the end of the race, but I’ll get through,” Allmendinger said on his team radio.

McMurray’s lead lasted just three laps before Keselowski went to the front of the pack with Jeff Gordon following closely, dropping McMurray to third.

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Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.