Brad Keselowski wins at Talladega on 2nd G-W-C attempt, advances in Chase

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What a difference a week makes.

Last Saturday night, Brad Keselowski was at the center of controversy after being part of multiple incidents following the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The $50,000 fine for his actions just added more pressure to a situation that required him to win today’s elimination race at Talladega Superspeedway in order to advance to the Eliminator Round of the Chase.

But on this Sunday, on NASCAR’s most chaotic track, Keselowski came through by charging from 39th on the starting grid, overcoming damage to his car from an early incident, and then surviving two green-white-checkered attempts to win the GEICO 500.

Upon reaching Victory Lane, Keselowski appeared to show remorse for what occurred in Charlotte.

“I know there are some people out there that probably aren’t happy that I won. I can understand that,” he said to ESPN. “But I’m a man like everyone else that does things they aren’t always proud of. I’m not real proud of last week. But I’m real proud about today.

“…I think it was very easy to write ourselves off after the last two weeks. We had one job to do: Come to Talladega and win it. And we did. We treated this weekend like Homestead. If these guys can keep it up at this level, we’ve got a shot at it. And I’m really, really thankful for that.”

A debris caution with four laps remaining set the stage for G-W-C, with Keselowski taking the restart in second alongside Ryan Newman. But he was able to take the lead from Newman before a multi-car incident broke out on the backstretch that involved Dale Earnhardt Jr. and several others.

That set up the second G-W-C attempt, and Newman mounted a charge on the outside as the white flag waved. He pulled side-by-side with Keselowski all the way to Turn 3 on the final lap.

But Keselowski and the inside line were able to pull ahead in the final corner, and the 2012 Cup champion went on to take, arguably, his greatest win yet at NASCAR’s top level.

“My first win in my [Cup] career was here and that was really big,” Keselowski said in reference to his inaugural Cup win in 2009. “This is at least the equal. It’s special.”

Newman went on to finish fifth at the stripe, but it was more than enough to get him into the Eliminator Round as the top Chaser without a win in the Contender Round.

Following him in on points were Denny Hamlin (18th place), race runner-up Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards (21st place), and Jeff Gordon (26th place), who earned the final Chase advance position by three points over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne.

On the other side of the cutoff with Kahne are Kyle Busch (-7 points), who finished 40th after being caught in a crash on Lap 102; Jimmie Johnson (24th place, -40 points); and Earnhardt, who was relegated to a 31st-place result due to the GWC1 accident. Their hopes of earning this year’s championship have come to a close earlier than they hoped for.

Clint Bowyer picked up a third-place finish behind Keselowski and Kenseth in the race. Landon Cassill surprised with a fourth place finish, then Newman in fifth, Travis Kvapil in sixth, Kurt Busch in seventh, Marcos Ambrose in eighth, Kevin Harvick in ninth and Casey Mears in 10th.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT TALLADEGA – GEICO 500
Unofficial Results

1. 2-Brad Keselowski, led 12 laps
2. 20-Matt Kenseth, led 1 lap
3. 15-Clint Bowyer
4. 40-Landon Cassill, led 1 lap
5. 31-Ryan Newman, led 10 laps
6. 33-Travis Kvapil
7. 41-Kurt Busch
8. 9-Marcos Ambrose
9. 4-Kevin Harvick, led 2 laps
10. 13-Casey Mears
11. 22-Joey Logano
12. 5-Kasey Kahne, led 12 laps
13. 3-Austin Dillon
14. 36-Reed Sorenson
15. 26-Cole Whitt, led 1 lap
16. 66-Michael Waltrip
17. 42-Kyle Larson
18. 11-Denny Hamlin, led 1 lap
19. 10-Danica Patrick, led 7 laps
20. 55-Brian Vickers
21. 99-Carl Edwards
22. 12-Ryan Blaney, led 15 laps
23. 47-A.J. Allmendinger
24. 48-Jimmie Johnson, led 84 laps
25. 16-Greg Biffle, led 1 lap
26. 24-Jeff Gordon, led 3 laps
27. 78-Martin Truex Jr., led 1 lap
28. 98-Josh Wise
29. 38-David Gilliland, led 2 laps
30. 34-David Ragan, led 2 laps
31. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 31 laps
32. 21-Trevor Bayne
33. 32-Terry Labonte
34. 14-Tony Stewart, led 5 laps
35. 1-Jamie McMurray, led 3 laps
36. 27-Paul Menard
37. 7-Michael Annett
38. 49-Mike Wallace
39. 43-Aric Almirola
40. 18-Kyle Busch
41. 95-Michael McDowell
42. 83-J.J. Yeley
43. 23-Alex Bowman

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”