After the recent traumas surrounding Penske Racing's Cup squad and the indefinite suspension of driver AJ Allmendinger, the team at last had something to celebrate this weekend at Indianapolis
Motor Speedway as Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. achieved a one-two finish for Roger Penske in the first Indiana 225 Nationwide Series race.
"I've been watching races here since I was a kid in Michigan," said Keselowski after claiming the win. "Everybody knows how special Indy is, and any win you can have here, whether it's the 500 or the Brickyard here, the first Nationwide race. Every race is special."
It's the first time that Nationwide cars have joined the Cup series with a race at the famous speedway, giving Keselowski a place in the record books that can never be taken away. But Keselowski owed more than a little thanks to some ill-fortune that had hit his main rivals in the closing stages of the 100-lap event.
First there was a spin for Kyle Busch who had led 51 of the laps and who appeared to have the dominant car but an Achilles Heel on pit lane; and then Elliott Sadler surged away at the restart, only to get handed a drive-thru penalty for jumping the restart.
That was especially ironic given what had happened at the very start of the race: polesitter Kasey Kahne had got a sluggish exit from turn 4 approaching the green flag and found himself in third place behind Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin as they crossed the starting line - much to Kahne's annoyance. However, no one on the race official side of things seemed to think that anything was amiss and instead insisted that it was Kahne's fault for not getting up to speed properly. Case closed.
All Kahne could do after that was hunker down in third place some two seconds off the leaders, and ahead of a fierce battle for fourth place between Ty Dillon - in only the Truck Series regular's second Nationwide outing - and Brad Keselowski, who finally passed the youngster for the position going down the frontstretch on lap 11.
That took the race through to lap 15, at which point there was a scheduled caution to allow the teams to check over the cars. That was because since the last time the cars had extended practice runs on the speedway, the track had been briefly converted to its road course configuration for Friday's Grand-AM endurance race.
There was some congestion on pit lane, with Kurt Busch running into the back of Kyle Fowler making hard contact twice, while Paul Menard and Mike Bliss had a near miss of their own. None of that affected the race leader, but it was a rather costly visit to pit lane for Kyle Busch who dropped four spots as his team took extra care over loading the maximum amount of fuel into the #54: Hamlin, Kahne and Keselowski all bumped up a position, with Elliott Sadler the biggest gainer with a lead up into fourth position in front of Busch for the restart.
It was a minor inconvenience for Busch, who hustled his way back to the front five laps later with Brad Keselowski being dropped in second place after a few laps in the lead. At the other end of the field, James Buescher was the last car on the lead lap in 34th position, having had to come back onto pit road on lap 29 after being one of a pack of cars that got down too low on the track and churned up the grass verge, clogging the front grille of the #30 resulting in spiralling water temperatures that sent him back in for a quick clean-up before things got serious.