26 May 2012
Nationwide: Keselowski puts Penske on top
In a weekend of big motor races in the US, Brad Keselowski delivered Penske victory in the Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A hot and humid Charlotte Motor Speedway saw the first Penske success of Memorial Day weekend - and team owner Roger Penske will be hoping that Brad Keselowski's intelligent, fuel-minded drive from tenth on the grid all the way to victory lane in the NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 race is a good omen for things to come at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.
Polesitter Joey Logano had got off to a good start when the green flag came out at just after 3pm local time, while behind him Sam Hornish Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. quickly took up the chasing positions after making short work of series rookies Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick for the time being.
After a brief yellow for a harmless spin by Travis Pastrana out of turn 4 on lap 6 in the loose-looking #99, racing resumed with Logano and Stenhouse making a break for it and only Kevin Harvick able to go with them at this stage. But the breakaway was shortlived, with the race quickly back under caution when Robert Richardson Jr.'s engine blew up, sending the car into a hard hit with the wall that left the fire extinguishers with some urgent work to attend to, and the track workers with a lot of oil to clean up.
That did at least give Pastrana the chance to get back on the lead lap, and Denny Hamlin the opportunity to come onto pit lane to get his carburettor replaced.
"I've been wondering where our speed was all weekend. We tried to change the carburettors, and that didn't fix it," said Hamlin. "[But] we got the handling [so that] it was at least drivable."
Racing resumed on lap 22, and this time Harvick was in charge of the outside line - not only stopping Logano from leaping away on the bottom, but actually managing to take the lead for himself and checking out from the pursuers. Kyle Busch also benefited by following Harvick through on the outside line to take second place from Logano, who kept on gradually falling back over the ensuing green flag laps as he also lost positions to Stenhouse and Kasey Kahne who were on their way to catch Busch for second.
Danica Patrick had just completed her first pit stop of the race under green, Mike Bliss and Sam Hornish were on pit road and Kevin Harvick looking to follow suit when the third caution of the night came out for Angela Cope's car coming to a smoking halt on the front stretch on lap 53. That dropped Danica back to 28th place for the restart, but at least she, Bliss and Hornish all got the wave-around back onto the lead lap. Meanwhile the pit stop was a slow one for Kyle Busch, who dropped seven spots to 11th.
Kevin Harvick lost the restart battle to Kasey Kahne, but the race was quickly back under caution when Travis Pastrana reprised his earlier unorthodox entry onto pit lane by spinning across the infield grass. That gave Stenhouse the opportunity to pit, having reported a problem with the #6 car that transpired to be a broken driveshaft that put him 22 laps down in 33rd place while repairs were effected.
Harvick was back in charge at the restart, with Brad Keselowski also edging in front of Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano looking comfortable in fourth place as the race approached mid-distance. and the second round of pit stops, this time a routine affair under green. Harvick continued to lead from there until the next caution came out on lap 127 for a spin by Tayler Malsam that sent him into a light brush down the wall in turns 3 and 4.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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