Auto racing: Keselowski wins at Talladega
AP Sports Writer
TALLADEGA, Ala. — Brad Keselowski was minutes away from being benched for the Nationwide Series race. He was involved in a late wreck in the earlier Cup race, sending his carbon monoxide level soaring past NASCAR's limit to drive.
He was a "real jerk" to the medical personnel in the care center because he demanded immediate clearance to race.
"If the race started 5 minutes earlier, I wouldn't have been in it," Keselowski said.
Keselowski needed an oxygen mask for the majority of his break between races, then went out and won the Nationwide event at Talladega Superspeedway in a wild finish to end more than 850 miles of racing Sunday.
"We caught the right breaks today," Keselowski said.
He got the breaks on the track and off to win his first race with Penske Racing. Keselowski said his carbon monoxide level after the Sprint Cup race was at 13 — nearly triple NASCAR's required numeric level to drive a stock car.
Team owner Roger Penske asked Sam Hornish Jr. to standby in case of emergency. After 45 minutes of breathing through an oxygen mask, Keselowski was given the green light to drive the No. 22 Dodge.
All he needed then was the second green-white checkered finish of the day. Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray seemed poised down the stretch to duplicate their thrilling 1-2 finish in the Cup race. But McMurray got loose on the overtime laps and triggered a scary wreck that nearly sent Dennis Setzer flying over the fence.
Setzer went airborne, crashed into the safety fence and his car was on fire as it skidded down the track. It was similar to last year's Cup race at Talladega when Carl Edwards sailed into the fence, allowing Keselowski to pull off a surprise win.
The left front spring and right front shock from the No. 22 was sent to R&D because it was under the minimum spring rate. NASCAR will make an annoucement on its findings Tuesday.
McMurray, who needed ibuprofen early in the Nationwide race after finishing second behind Harvick in the Cup race, tried to squeeze in behind Harvick in a pack of traffic to eek out the win.
"I tried to get back to the bottom and I saw a little gap between Harvick and (Clint) Bowyer, and when you are looking at it out of the side mirrors, it's not as clear an angle as what it needs to be," McMurray said. "As soon as I saw (Bowyer), I tried to get back up the race track to not wreck everybody, but unfortunately I couldn't save it and ended up spinning out there."
Keselowski won for the first time with Penske Racing. It's only the second year team owner Roger Penske is running a full-time Nationwide program.
Keselowski was added this year to make it a two-car operation with Justin Allgaier, who gave Penske his first career series win this month at Bristol when he beat Keselowski in a 1-2 Penske Racing finish. Keselowski leads the points standings.
"Maybe we were behind when we started, but we sure got ahead today," Penske said.
Joey Logano was second and Harvick third.
"I can't complain about third place," Harvick said. "It was a lot of the same scenario."
Keselowski, Harvick and Logano were among the 10 drivers who pulled double duty and drove about 850 miles after rain wiped out Saturday's scheduled race. It was the second straight race weekend NASCAR had a Cup-Nationwide double because of rain. The drivers who double-dipped last Monday at Texas Motor Speedway went a combined 801 miles.
"I think this week is different than last week because last week was a more demanding race track," Logano said. "I was fine. I didn't have any issues or anything like that, and last week I was good, too. It's different getting out of the Cup car and walking over to the Nationwide trailer, changing suits, getting some food and then 'All right, buckle back in. Here we go!'"
Setzer, who said he was fine, surely made the highlight reels after his frightening crash that saw him hurled into the safety fence. His car nearly flipped over the fence, but landed on the track in flames.
"Anything more exciting than this and we'll have to go to the X-Games," Harvick said.
Keselowski's win comes days after Penske Racing landed Shell Oil's sponsorship for next season. The new partnership makes Pennzoil the primary sponsor for Kurt Busch, who will move to the No. 22 Dodge. Miller Lite will shift its sponsorship to Keselowski.
Penske said he was committed to bringing Hornish back next season and finding him sponsorship. Penske expects to again field two-cars in the Nationwide Series in 2011.