Sunday's motors: Keselowski sweeps races at Darlington
Darlington, S.C. — Brad Keselowski provided perhaps the biggest throwback at the Southern 500 — giving Team Penske its first victory at Darlington Raceway in 43 years.
“This is probably the biggest win of my career,” said Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR champion.
Keselowski beat leader Kyle Larson out of the pits — “It couldn’t have been more than 10 feet,” Keselowski said — with 22 laps to go, then pulled away on the restart to sweep the weekend at Darlington.
Keselowski took the Xfinity race Saturday when leaders Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick wrecked late. This time, Keselowski and his crew took advantage on the final caution to move in front with a fast pit stop.
Keselowski then did the rest as he opened a 1.5-second lead down the stretch.
It was Keselowski’s first victory of the season — the 25th of his career — and the first time a Team Penske driver has won at Darlington since Bobby Allison in the 1975 Southern 500.
“Got to give a lot of credit to my pit crew,” Keselowski said. “Running second that last stop and they nailed it.”
They also put Team Penske in victory lane here for first time in decades in a race that has become the sports’ Old Timer’s Day to celebrate its history. Keselowski drove a Miller Genuine Draft paint scheme that Rusty Wallace used when driving for Penske.
Walt Czarnecki, Team Penske vice chairman, said he was glad to break the long dry spell at Darlington and give the organization its 498th win across several platforms of racing.
“I’ve been in touch with Roger (Penske) and he’s about excited as can be,” Czarnecki said.
Joey Logano, Keselowski’s Penske teammate, finished second, and Larson was third.
Logano was grateful to see Team Penske on top. “The one-two is nice,” he said. “Racing Larson there, I was think it’d be good to get a one-two. It be really nice (for me) to be the one.”
Larson won the first two stages and led 284 of the 367 laps. Yet, he leaves disappointed with his seventh top-three finish of the season. Larson chose to focus on the strong showing
“This is my fifth Cup season and I’ve run second or third a lot, so I guess you get used to it,” Larson said with a chuckle. “The disappointment, I can handle it better than most people.”
Kevin Harvick was fourth and Chase Elliott fifth.
The Busch brothers were next — Kurt in sixth, points leader Kyle in seventh — with Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray and pole-sitter Denny Hamlin rounding out the top 10.
Scott Dixon salvaged his championship run with an improbable comeback at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore., that put him in control of his race to a fifth IndyCar title.
Dixon finished fifth, far behind race winner Takuma Sato, but put together the kind of drive that may define his season. He started 11th, was collected in an opening-lap crash, penalized for speeding on pit road and twice drove through the field from 20th.
His Chip Ganassi Racing team was forced to change its strategy several times, and caution flags helped Dixon cycle ahead of the other championship contenders. He goes to the Sept. 16 season finale with a 29-point over Alexander Rossi.
Rossi had a decent race Sunday but finished eighth and lost three points to Dixon.
Team Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden started on the front row and are the only other drivers mathematically eligible to win the championship. Newgarden finished 10th and it was a terrible day for Power, the Indianapolis 500 winner. He had a mechanical problem eight laps into the race seemed to make his car stall as he pulled out of the way and conceded the lead to Rossi.
Power later went off course into a tire barrier and finished 21st.
For Ferrari, the wait continues. For Lewis Hamilton, it was a dream race.
Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Italy, after starting third on the grid to extend his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel following an opening-lap collision with the German driver that effectively ended his chances of victory.
Ferrari had been hopeful of ending an eight-year wait for a win at its home track after taking the front two places on the grid at the Italian GP for the first time since 2000. However, pole-sitter Raikkonen was overtaken by Hamilton eight laps from the end and the Mercedes driver held on, much to the disappointment of the passionate Italian tifosi fans.
Hamilton, who said he rated the win as among the top performances of his career, tied Michael Schumacher’s record of five Italian GP victories and extended his overall lead to 30 points over Vettel
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was third, ahead of Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who received a five-second penalty.
Defending event champion J.R. Todd secured his first No. 1 qualifying position of the Funny Car season in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Todd powered his Toyota Camry to a 3.910-second pass at 325.45 mph on Friday night, and the time stood through two more day of qualifying.
Mike Salinas qualified No. 1 in Top Fuel, Tanner Gray was the fastest in Pro Stock, and Matt Smith topped the Pro Stock Motorcycle field. Salinas and Gray also had their best runs Friday, while Smith had a 6.814 at 199.14 on a Victory Magnum in the final round.