Weekend wrap: Brad Keselowski rises up to Talladega challenge

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source: Getty Images
A star-spangled celebration for Brad Keselowski. Photo: Getty Images.

It’s not always easy to give credit where credit is due.

But for many within NASCAR Nation that condemned Brad Keselowski following his post-race actions at Charlotte Motor Speedway, that’s what they need to do.

Yes, Keselowski did some dumb things.

Yes, he deserved the $50,000 fine and probation.

And yes, he brought more unnecessary adversity upon himself as he went into Sunday’s Contender Round finale at Talladega Superspeedway needing a win in order to move on in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But you have to tip your cap to a guy that can overcome all of that and get the result that saved his season.

We can’t quite say that Keselowski’s victory on Sunday was a miracle. The man drives for Team Penske, one of the top two teams in NASCAR, after all.

But it was most definitely impressive. He had to start from the back of the grid (unapproved adjustment). Then, he took damage to his car as part of an early crash at Lap 60, and had to give up precious track position in order to get it straightened out.

Undaunted, Keselowski quickly raced his way back into the Top 10.

Then late in the race, a caution came out during the final cycle of green flag pit stops. Keselowski had pitted before the yellow and had to take a restart with nine laps to go in 16th place.

But with the help of teammates Joey Logano (already in the Eliminator Round thanks to his Kansas win) and Ryan Blaney, Keselowski roared all the way to second place when a debris caution with four to go sent the race into green-white-checkered.

A crash involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended the first attempt, but in the second attempt, Keselowski went wheel-to-wheel with a game Ryan Newman. As the final lap played out, Keselowski got help on the inside from – of all people – Matt Kenseth, the same man that was driven to such rage by him at Charlotte that he attacked him from behind and put him in a headlock.

The racing gods work in mysterious ways. But their machinations definitely worked for Keselowski, who pulled away from Newman and led Kenseth to the checkered flag.

Such a result is sure to polarize fans after what occurred in Charlotte. But whether you love or loathe Keselowski, what he did on Sunday – to win in a must-win situation, in NASCAR’s most treacherous setting – deserves respect.

MORE: Roger Penske defends Keselowski, says other drivers “jealous” of his success

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It just wasn’t meant to be for Junior. Photo: AP.

Brad Keselowski avoided Chase elimination thanks to his Talladega win, but four others – including three from the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut – could not.

On Lap 102, Kyle Busch was riding in the back of the pack hoping to dodge chaos in front of him as it happened. Sure enough, contact between Aric Almirola and J.J. Yeley on the backstretch touched off a multi-car melee.

But instead of avoiding it, Busch was hit from behind by another car and sent into the inside retaining wall. Almost 50 laps passed before Busch returned to the track, but his 40th-place finish caused him to miss out on the Chase by seven points.

Meanwhile, the Hendrick trio of Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all came up short as well.

Kahne’s 12th-place finish was not enough as he missed the cutoff by just three points. Johnson led a race-high 84 laps and was running in the Top 5 late, but was shuffled back during green-white-checkered and could not recover (finished 24th). And Earnhardt was caught in a backstretch pileup during GWC1.

With that, the mighty HMS is down to one Chase representative – Jeff Gordon, who finished 26th but managed to beat Kahne for the eighth and final Eliminator Round spot.

MORE: Winless Newman, Kenseth move onCould either of them conquer the Chase?Newman’s car found to be too low, may lead to penaltiesWhat to do if your favorite driver’s been eliminatedLandon Cassill earns career-best finish

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage