Keselowski calls out Gordon over pit-stop issue

Dan Gelston
Associated Press
Crew members work on the car of Brad Keselowski during a pit stop in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Pocono Raceway Monday in Long Pond, Pa.

Long Pond, Pa. — Brad Keselowski’s car took a shot in the pits and then he took aim at Jeff Gordon.

Keselowski, the pole-sitter for Monday’s race at Pocono Raceway, ran into early trouble when he was called back to the pits because of unapproved body modifications on his No. 2 Ford. One of his pit crew members threw a shoulder block into a side panel, which caused a dent that potentially could give the car more sideforce and an aerodynamic edge on the track.

Crew members argued with pit officials, to no avail. The Rochester Hills native rallied to finish third, though his Ford was quickly surrounded by NASCAR officials. The car did not fail postrace inspection.

Kurt Busch, who said he felt like a game show contestant who had to beat the clock to win a prize, won the race.

Keselowski was angered when told that the FS1 broadcast aired footage of his crew doing something similar during a pit stop earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Keselowski was not penalized and won the race.

Gordon, the retired four-time NASCAR champion and an analyst for the FS1 broadcast team, explained on the broadcast how Keselowski might have an edge. As he spoke, the network showed a replay of the Las Vegas pit stop.

“Do you guys remember the last time that this happened and the results? I think it was Las Vegas,” Gordon said. “Same penalty. Here it comes … hip check. Bam.”

After the Pocono race, Keselowski was upset that Gordon is broadcasting while he still owns a stake in Hendrick Motorsports.

“They need to get some people in the booth who aren’t inbred to the sport and own teams and have internal knowledge, because that’s pretty crappy,” Keselowski said. “But it is what it is.”

Gordon and Keselowski once brawled in pit road following a 2014 race at Texas Motor Speedway over contact on the track.

“It’s not that I don’t like Jeff Gordon in the booth,” Keselowski said. “It’s that you need to have people who don’t own teams or have commercial interests in the sport, because they say things that are very biased.”

Gordon later tweeted an apology.

“My mistake comparing @keselowski @LVMotorSpeedway incident today @poconoraceway but @NASCAR called car down pit road to fix issue not me,” he wrote. “My mistake was that @keselowski didn’t get a penalty for the ‘body modifications’ during @LVMotorSpeedway race.”

Told his Chevrolet was two laps shy of having enough fuel for the finishing push, Busch did all he could to save, scrimp and stretch over the final five laps to give himself a shot at the win. He coasted, he kept his foot off the gas and he even turned his engine off when he headed into the turns at Pocono Raceway.

“I kept finding ways to think I was saving fuel,” he said. “The way the fuel mileage played out, I didn’t know if we’d have enough.”

With an interim crew chief calling the shots, Busch found enough ways to make his gas last and won the Sprint Cup race Monday, his first victory of the season and a welcome dose of good news for Stewart-Haas Racing.

The 2004 champion, urged by his team to step on it hard for the final lap, somehow made it work on a track with the longest frontstretch in motorsports. There was no pain at the pump: Busch not only had enough fuel left to win but enough for victory burnouts and a celebratory lap around the track.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, how many laps shy are we?’ They said two,” he said. “These are really long straightaways at Pocono and you have to manage saving fuel as well as maintaining lap time. So many thoughts can go through your head, but I just stuck with the checklist.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, and Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano rounded out the top five in a race postponed one day because of rain.

Busch won with interim crew chief Johnny Klausmeier, the lead engineer, calling the shots as Tony Gibson served a one-race suspension.

“Y’all got this… ????” Gibson tweeted before the race.

They sure did — a victory that Busch was building toward all season.

He had quietly been having a solid season for SHR, posting four top-five finishes and 11 top 10s in 13 starts entering the race. He had reeled off seven straight top 10s — he graded his season an A-minus — but didn’t have the win he needed to earn a sport in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Busch led 32 laps in winning his 28th career Cup race, moving him into a tie with Hall of Famer Rex White for 25th on NASCAR’s career wins list. He also has three wins at Pocono with three different teams. He became the ninth driver to win a race this season.

Without a caution to help conserve fuel, Busch nursed what was left in the tank for the last 30-plus laps of green-flag racing to snap a 34-race losing skid.

Busch and Klausmeier posed arm-in-arm for a picture in victory lane and left just enough space in between them to insert a picture of Gibson.

“We just kept him informed on everything that was going on, and he took it and ran with it,” Klausmeier said.

Elliott led 51 laps and seemed poised for most of the race to earn his first career win. The Hendrick Motorsports rookie who replaced Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevy stumbled off late restarts that forced him to fall short at the end.

“I wish I had been a little more patient and given ourselves a better chance,” Elliott said.

It was the first Monday race at Pocono since 2009 and the first postponed Cup race of the season.