As you’d figure, Brad Keselowski unfazed about needing to win following Martinsville wreck

0 Comments

He’s done it once. But can he do it again?

Brad Keselowski’s drive for a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship may depend on it after a mechanical failure in Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville Speedway forced him to swallow a 31st-place finish.

Once again in this Chase, Keselowski faces a must-win situation over the next two weeks at Texas and Phoenix.

We know what happened the last time he was in that spot, don’t we?

So, naturally, Keselowski is confident that he can make lightning strike twice.

“We were going to probably have ourselves a fifth- or sixth-place day [before the failure], which is certainly something we could be proud of and move forward with – but this kind of puts us in a position now where we need to win,” he said.

“This Chase lends itself to those moments and we’re a team that’s capable of them, so we’ll try to be as positive as we can and move forward with two more opportunities to do just that.”

Keselowski started toward the front of the field only to struggle with a poor handling car on the opening stint and tumble all the way down to 20th. He stayed mired in mid-pack and was penalized for speeding in the pits at Lap 162.

But as the race progressed past halfway, Keselowski and the No. 2 Team Penske crew appeared to have solved their problems as he worked his way into the Top 10.

He was running there when something broke on his car’s driveline with 65 laps to go. Now slowing on the track, Casey Mears then crashed into the back of him and multiple other drivers behind them were collected in the subsequent stack-up.

Once the red flag for the incident was lifted, Keselowski’s crew went to work and replaced his car’s rear differential. When he returned to the track, he’d fallen 28 laps off the pace.

With one opportunity gone, Keselowski now has to focus on Texas and Phoenix. Considering Penske’s stout pace on the big ovals, Fort Worth will be a big chance for him, and he’s also been solid at Phoenix too with three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in his last five starts there.

He acknowledges that his path to the Championship has gotten tougher. But as he himself proved, it can be walked – or driven, as it were.

“It’s not like we’re just gonna go and guarantee a win at Texas and Phoenix,” he said. “But it’s also not impossible and we’ve got the team, if there is one, to pull it off.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
0 Comments

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)