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

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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.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.