Brad Keselowski hopes Southern 500 win provides momentum for No. 2 team

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — The moment for Brad Keselowski was fantastic. Winning an event he considers among NASCAR’s crown jewels, snapping a 29-race winless streak, and doing it when he thought his team had a fifth- to 10th-place car entering the race made the night special.

But after winning Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Keselowski was cautious about what the win signified for his team with one race left until the playoffs begin.

“There’s no tracks like this in the playoffs,” Keselowski said after his 25th career Cup victory. “And winning is great, but there’s not a lot of carryover here, and we still have a lot to work on and improve to be considered a favorite for the playoffs.

“I’m hopeful today is the catalyst to get that work done because it shows that when we do hit it, we’re capable of executing at the level needed to bring home trophies.”

Maybe Keselowski’s team will be the one break a trend among winners late in the regular season, but the odds are against them.

Since eliminations were added to the playoff format in 2014, no driver who won in either of the final two regular-season races went on to make it to the championship race in Miami.

Twice such winners finished as high as fifth in the points, including Keselowski in 2014 after his Richmond win in what was the regular-season finale that year. Twice such winners finished 15th in the standings.

This has not been an easy season for Keselowski and his Penske team. He is on pace for his fewest top-five finishes in the past three seasons. He would need to score a top-10 finish in more than 80 percent of the remaining races to match his total from last season. His victory Sunday was the third top-10 result in the last eight races.

“It’s been really frustrating because we haven’t had the speed we’ve had over the last few seasons, and then the races where I feel like we’ve had the speed, I feel like I completely screwed them up,” Keselowski said of how this season has challenged him.

“I felt like before today that we had the speed to win Daytona and Talladega, and that’s probably about it, and I messed both those races up. I made one bad move in the draft, got cycled back, and then the wreck happened. And then at both the Daytonas, I feel like I made the wrong move, one where I just was too nice to someone and another when I just didn’t anticipate somebody else’s bad move. I feel like those were failures on my part, and so that’s really frustrating. And you just never know when you’re going to get a winning race car again.

“And so you hope it’s every week. You enter every weekend thinking that. Then you get to the race and it’s not there, and you’re like, oh, what if I never get another car capable of winning again. Today we had a car capable of winning, we executed, we made the most of it, and I’m so thrilled for that because I know those moments are not a guarantee.”

Crew chief Paul Wolfe admitted the team felt the pressure of not having won a points race this season before Sunday.

“It’s been a tough year,” Wolfe said. “Usually we’ve won a race by now, and you start to feel that season coming to an end, and yeah, we were kind of locked into the playoffs on points, but you know, most of us that I’m aware of on this team are here to win races. That’s why we do this. That’s why we get up every day and go to work is to win races, whether we’re in the playoffs or not. It’s all about winning races and contending for a championship.”

Keselowski said he hopes this win can lift his team heading into the playoffs.

“Moments like today are just so refreshing,” he said. “They recharge your batteries so much because the season is such a death march, especially when things aren’t going well, and this is a complete battery recharge for myself and for our team. It makes going to the racetrack fun knowing that you’ve won and you can win.”

A LOOK AT HOW DRIVERS WHO WON IN THE FINAL TWO RACES OF THE REGULAR SEASON FARED (SINCE ELIMINATIONS WERE ADDED TO THE PLAYOFFS IN 2014)

2014

Race 25: Atlanta – Kasey Kahne (finished 15th in points)

Race 26: Richmond – Brad Keselowski (5th)

2015

Race 25: Darlington – Carl Edwards (5th)

Race 26: Richmond – Matt Kenseth (15th)#

2016

Race 25: Darlington – Martin Truex Jr. (11th)

Race 26: Richmond – Denny Hamlin (6th)

2017

Race 25: Darlington – Denny Hamlin (6th)

Race 26: Richmond – Kyle Larson (8th)

# Suspended two playoff races for intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville

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Jordan Anderson in fiery crash in Talladega Truck race

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Jordan Anderson was airlifted to an area hospital after being involved in a fiery crash during Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Anderson’s car caught fire in the middle of a pack of drafting trucks. Flames burst from three areas around the truck as Anderson tried to slow the vehicle and move onto the track apron. The truck hit the inside wall. Anderson climbed from the vehicle in a cloud of smoke as it came to a stop.

Anderson, 31 and a resident of Forest Acres, S.C., was transported to the infield medical center before being airlifted. NASCAR confirmed Anderson’s trip to the hospital.

Fox Sports reported that a team member said Anderson had burns.

Anderson is a part-time driver in the Truck Series. He has a top finish of 14th this season.

Starting lineup for Talladega Cup race: Christopher Bell wins pole

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Six playoff drivers will start in the top 10 for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Christopher Bell won the pole for the race Saturday with a speed of 180.591 miles per hour. He was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe.

MORE: Talladega Cup starting lineup

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

Playoff drivers starting in the top 10 are Bell, Larson, Hamlin, Briscoe, Ross Chastain (sixth) and William Byron (ninth).

Noah Gragson, who qualified seventh, is replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms.

Ryan Blaney, starting 19th, is the lowest playoff driver on the starting grid.

 

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

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