Logano: Brad Keselowski has ‘become one of the leaders’ of Drivers Council

(Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH — Earlier this year, Brad Keselowski had a “Sally Field moment.” He was elected to the Sprint Cup Drivers Council for the first time in its second season of existence.

“I didn’t actively campaign to be a part of it, yet somehow I got voted in,’’ Keselowski said in February. “I am not sure what that means.”

Whatever it means, Keselowski is one of three new members on the nine-driver council, along with Jimmie Johnson and defending series champion Kyle Busch. They join Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Hamlin and Logano.

Keselowski told NBC Sports he felt “privileged” to be part of the council, which has met at least once this season.

“It’s nice to play a part in hopefully making the sport move forward,” Keselowski said Friday following Xfinity Series qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.

But his appointment, voted on by drivers including teammate Joey Logano, a council member since its 2015 inception, came as a shock to some.

“I was surprised,” Logano said in February on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “We all were surprised. He was surprised, too.”

But why? Why should the 2012 Sprint Cup champion and one of the more vocal and thoughtful drivers in the garage have to equate being elected to the council to how Sally Field accepted her 1985 Best Actress Oscar?

“What do you think?” Logano asked Friday with a laugh.

Keselowski’s track record with his competitors is checkered. One just has to look as recently as 2014.

Actions taken by the Team Penske driver against Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October resulted in being ambushed by Kenseth between haulers. Later, Keselowski sat in the NASCAR hauler, resembling a student waiting to meet with the principal.

Three races later at Texas, an aggressive on-track move that cut one of Jeff Gordon‘s tires led to a pit road melee involving both drivers’ teams.

Keselowski drew the ire of competitors for his brashness and aggressiveness as early as 2009. Then he was just a part-time Cup driver for Hendrick Motorsports while he competed full time in the Xfinity Series.

But he was a part-timer who had one win. A win that came after Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact coming to the checkered flag at Talladega, sending Edwards into the catchfence. A year later at Atlanta, the favor was returned by Edwards, who blatantly retaliated for another incident that damaged his car during the race.

Those incidents and more, as well as Keselowski’s “me against the world” attitude, rubbed some drivers and many fans the wrong way during his first seven seasons on the circuit.

At the same time, Keselowski earned a reputation for being one who would speak at length on the sport’s many aspects. That includes his tweets and his blog, giving fans previously unavailable looks at the sport and his life.

During his champion’s speech at the 2012 banquet, he talked of his desire to help be a leader in the garage.

“I hope that as a sport, that we can continue to find common ground, to unify,” Keselowski said, accepting the first Sprint Cup title for Team Penseke. “I believe everyone in this room, we have some of the smartest people in this room that can solve any problem and I know that as a sport, we’re capable of getting it done and I hope that everyone of us can continue to work together, find that common ground and as a champion, I want to be your leader and I want to help make it happen.”

Thanks to a surprising vote by his peers, Keselowski is getting that chance and according to Logano, doing what he promised four years ago.

“I think he’s been a great addition to the Drivers Council, for sure,” Logano said. “He’s taken the role in the ‘Brad way.’ The way you would expect Brad to. He attacks the position in that role and really has become one of the leaders of the council, fairly quickly.’

“I think that now he’s in there and people have seen that, there will be a spot in there for him into the future.”

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Saturday Sonoma Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on goprn.com. … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)