Brad Keselowski wins Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

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Brad Keselowski survived three major wrecks in the final 16 laps to win the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and advance to the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Keselowski passed Ryan Newman on the final turn of the last lap to secure the win.

The Team Penske driver beat Newman, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola to the finish line.

“I survived,” Keselowski told NBC. “What a special day. We haven’t been as good a we want to be on the mile-and-a-halfs, so we knew we needed to come to Talladega and get it done. This is a great track for us and one we really enjoy coming to. It’s great to get a win here. No. 5. I never thought I would win at all at Talladega, but five times. Oh my gosh.”

The win was Keselowski’s third at Talladega since 2014, his fifth overall at the 2.66-mile track, and it came in his 300th Cup start.

Keselowski took his No. 2 Ford to victory lane despite having radio problems in the middle of the race that hampered communication with his team.

“You’ve got to have a little bit of luck in these races and you’ve got to be able to execute at the end,” Keselowski said.

Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh in his last Cup start at the speedway.

The paint scheme on Keselowski’s car was a tribute to Earnhardt. It was based on Keselowski’s paint scheme when he won his first two Xfinity races for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Earnhardt.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: The 13 cars that finished on the lead lap. … Ryan Newman’s second-place finish is his best result in 32 Talladega starts, … Gray Gaulding finished a career-best ninth in his 26th start. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished in the top 10 in two of the last three races. They are his only top 10s in the last 15 races. … Joey Logano finished fourth despite suffering major damage in one of the three major wrecks late in the race.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Jamie McMurray was eliminated after a multi-car crash on Lap 26 as he and other Chevrolet drivers attempted to enter pit road. He finished 37th. …. Clint Bowyer finished 35th after being involved in a multi-car wreck on a restart with 33 to go …. Playoff contenders Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were in a 17-car wreck with 16 laps to go. Kenseth and Harvick continued, but Harvick was eliminated in another wreck with 10 to go along with playoff contender Ryan Blaney and Danica Patrick. … Johnson was ruled out of the race by NASCAR for his team working on his car under the first red flag. He finished 24th … A third red flag was issued with five laps to go for a wreck with Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher and Kasey Kahne.

NOTABLE: Keselowski is the seventh driver to win in his 300th start … Team Penske has won four of the last five Talladega races. … The 17-car wreck with 16 laps to go brought out the red flag, which lasted 12 minutes and 30 seconds … The multi-car wreck with 10 laps to go caused a five minute and 45 second red flag. … The third red flag with five laps to go lasted 17 minutes and 14 seconds.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m glad I don’t have to do that again.” – Brad Keselowski after surviving three major wrecks and radio issues to win.

WHAT’S NEXT: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Oct. 22 on NBCSN.

Ryan Blaney embracing underdog status in first playoff run

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Even though his first shot at a NASCAR Cup title will come against drivers he grew up admiring, Ryan Blaney believes that won’t phase him in his first Cup playoff appearance.

“I don’t really get intimidated,” Blaney said Wednesday at the NASCAR Cup playoff media day in Charlotte. “These drivers are people just like us. I’ve watched them when I was younger. I’ve watched a lot of them. I’ve been big fans of a lot of them when I was younger growing up in this sport, and I just think it’s really neat.”

The 23-year-old driver for Wood Brothers Racing didn’t fully appreciate his inclusion in the playoffs until last Saturday.

After finishing 18th at Richmond, Blaney was presented as one of the 16 drivers who would compete in the playoffs, thanks to his win at Pocono Raceway in June.

“That part was very neat after Richmond to stand up there with 15 other drivers and get your picture taken with the trophy and realize, ‘Hey, I deserve to be here too,'” Blaney said. “Our team deserves this opportunity and this chance to be here. That was very special for me.

“I’ve wanted to be a part of that ever since they started that and I saw it as a kid. It was neat to be up there with some people you looked up to as a kid, as well as some of the younger drivers that you’re competing against.”

Blaney doesn’t enter the playoffs with a full head of steam. In the 12 races since his Pocono victory, the first of his Cup career, Blaney has four top 10s, but no finish better than eighth. That stretch includes two DNFs at Daytona and Indianapolis.

Blaney, pursuing the first NASCAR championship for the Wood Brothers since 1963, acknowledges the team got caught looking ahead to Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway and the following nine races.

“These playoff cars are always getting built and our Chicago car has been in the works for a long time,” Blaney said. “They’re constantly changing, whether it’s setup stuff or body or modifications they find throughout the week. We’re changing stuff today, just last-minute things that the aero group finds or the engineers find that we think will be better.”

The driver of the No. 21 Ford – who will be joining Team Penske next year –  knows he and the rest of the field will likely be chasing Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch in pursuit of the title.

“Hopefully, we can get some of that performance to where we can compete with those guys every single lap,” Blaney said. “I know the last couple months we haven’t had the best of runs, and that’s really not a lot of car performance, but things not happening our way or taking more chances than we probably should after we got a win at Pocono just because we could do that and take more chances of trying to win races or stages and them not playing out for us.

“It’s hard to kind of see where you stack up before Chicago. Even Darlington, the last mile-and-a-half, it’s hard to really even see where you line up there because it’s such a unique race track and Richmond is hard to kind of tell.”

Blaney joins Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in being in the playoffs for the first time. Both of them and Austin Dillon got into the playoffs with their first Cup wins.

Though he has fewer wins this season than the Truex’s and Larson’s of the series, Blaney said he doesn’t mind being called “an underdog or dark horse.”

“That means if you exceed expectations you kind of know that it’s even that much cooler and better when you can do that,” Blaney said. “I don’t mind being called that, but I do think we are viewed as that.”

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Former NASCAR owner Harry Scott passes away

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Harry Scott Jr., who owned NASCAR teams in the Cup, Xfinity, and K&N Pro Series East, died Wednesday. He was 51.

“We are shocked and saddened to confirm that Harry Scott, Jr., age 51, passed away yesterday, August 2, 2017,’’ the family said in a statement. “Harry will be remembered as a loving family man and successful business owner. We ask that everyone please keep Harry’s smile, generosity and essential kindness in your thoughts and prayers. Details about funeral services will be announced when they are finalized.”

NASCAR issued a statement: “Harry Scott Jr. possessed an endless passion for racing. Owning cars in the national series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, his crowning achievements were his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championships. The sport was proud to have Harry as our champion owner during that storybook era. NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Among those who drove for Scott were William Byron (K&N), Ben Rhodes (K&N), Kyle Larson (Cup & Xfinity), Bobby Labonte (Cup), Clint Bowyer (Cup), Justin Allgaier (Cup & Xfinity) and Michael Annett (Cup).

Scott entered NASCAR as a sponsor in 2008. In 2011, he became an owner in Turner Motorsports’ Xfinity team. In 2013, he became co-owner with Steve Turner of the rebranded Turner Scott Motorsports team.

Scott moved to Cup when he purchased James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team in 2013, forming HScott Motorsports. In 2014, Scott partnered with Justin Marks to form HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks in the K&N East Pro Series. Rhodes won the 2014 title. Byron won the 2015 series title.

Scott announced last year he would not be fielding any teams in 2017.

Hard to believe……Gonna miss your smile Harry, a lot.

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Jimmie Johnson defends his skiing, says: ‘I need to live my life’

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Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson goes skiing and biking. He’s got his Hendrick Motorsports teammates biking with him, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. Several other drivers are biking. Some have competed in triathlons.

Cup drivers are training in ways they have not done so before.

That can lead to risks.

Johnson was asked Friday if he worries about being injured while skiing in Colorado — where he and his family have been staying this season.

“I think about it,’’ Johnson said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I think I manage my risks. I know that my team owner is at least OK with me being out there.

“I look at the video (skiing) that I posted recently. I’m on a very low-pitch, very wide-open, powder snow. That’s the best conditions. Nobody is around in this private area of the mountain. I feel that I was managing my risks pretty damn well to go into that environment.

“You can get run over by a car cycling, running. You can step off the curb in front of a bus. Again, I feel like every driver is willing to take certain risks for their fitness and to live their life. Me being on those skis, that’s more about living my life and doing something I enjoy. I’ve been doing this way too long.

“If I stay in this little quarantined area, I might go Carl Edwards, and I don’t want to do that. I need to live my life, and this is the way I do it. Sure, there’s a lot of drivers right now getting fit, a lot of guys are choosing to ride the bike. Someone is going to fall and get hurt. It just happens. I hope everybody in (the media) and our fans don’t overreact. We have to live our lives. We didn’t develop these out-of-control tendencies in a race car by sitting in a rubber room playing chess. We’ve got to live our lives.’’

The next time won’t be the first time a driver is injured training.

Bobby Labonte broke three ribs in a cycling accident in Aug. 2013 and missed scheduled starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway for JTG Daugherty.

Spring time powder 👌

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Davey Allison, Bobby Labonte among new NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees

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Davey Allison and former champion Bobby Labonte are among the new nominees for the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

The 20 nominees were announced Wednesday on NASCAR  America.

The 15 nominees that remain from last year are joined by five new nominees: Car owners Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske and drivers Red Farmer, Allison and Labonte.

Allison, who died July 13, 1993, from injuries suffered in a helicopter accident at Talladega Superspeedway, won 19 times in 191 Cup starts. He was the 1987 Cup rookie of the year and won the 1992 Daytona 500.

Labonte won the 2000 Cup title and 21 series races. He won a Coca-Cola 600, a Southern 500 and a Brickyard 400 and was the 1991 Xfinity Series champion.

Farmer continues to compete into his 80s. He began racing in 1949 and is an original member of the famed “Alabama Gang.” He won the 1956 NASCAR modified championship and the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman title in 1967, ’70 and ’71.

Gibbs formed Joe Gibbs Racing in 1992. The team has won 140 Cup races and four Cup titles: Labonte in 2000, Tony Stewart in 2002 and 2005 and Kyle Busch in 2015. Gibbs’ teams have won 132 Xfinity races and five owner titles.

Penske first entered NASCAR in 1972. He was a car owner through 1977, returned for two races in 1980 and has been a Cup car owner since 1991. Team Penske won the 2012 Cup title and has 104 series wins, including Brad Keselowski’s victory last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Here are the 15 nominees who remain from last year:

Buddy Baker: Won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier (now Sprint Cup) series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500.

Red Byron: First NASCAR premier series champion, in 1949.

Ray Evernham: Three-time NASCAR premier series championship crew chief.

Ray Fox: Legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner.

Ron Hornaday: Four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion.

Harry Hyde: 1970 NASCAR premier series championship crew chief.

Alan Kulwicki: 1992 NASCAR premier series champion.

Hershel McGriff: 1986 NASCAR west series champion.

Larry Phillips: Only five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion.

Jack Roush: Eight-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series, winning two Cup titles, five in Xfinity and one in Trucks.

Ricky Rudd: Won 23 times in NASCAR’s premier series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400.

Ken Squier: Legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner / namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

Mike Stefanik: Winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships.

Waddell Wilson: Won three NASCAR premier series championships as an engine builder.

Robert Yates: Won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner.

Also, the five nominees for the Landmark Award were announced. They are (in alphabetical order):

Jim France: Executive vice president of NASCAR and son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. has played a key role behind the scenes in the sport.

Janet Guthrie: First female to compete in the Daytona 500 (1977).

Alvin Hawkins: NASCAR’s first flagman who helped establish NASCAR racing at Bowman Gray Stadium with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

Ralph Seagraves: Formed groundbreaking Winston-NASCAR partnership as executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

Ken Squier: Legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner / namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

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