Weekend wrap: Brad Keselowski rises up to Talladega challenge

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

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

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports