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Brad Keselowski: Late-race incident with Daniel Suarez ‘a racing deal’

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Brad Keselowski took to Twitter late Sunday to dismiss the notion that a late-race incident with Daniel Suarez in the Cup season finale was an intentional act to help teammate Joey Logano win the championship.

The incident occurred with 20 laps to go when Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan and Suarez were four-wide entering Turn 1.

Ragan was beneath Keselowski when he got loose and washed up into him, who then made contact with Suarez.

That sent Suarez into a slide, which cut a tire and put enough debris on the track to create a caution.

After the field pitted, Logano was third on the final restart with 15 laps to go. Three laps later he took the lead from Martin Truex Jr.

“Just a racing deal,” Keselowski said on Twitter. “@ClintBowyer and I were racing hard for position with 5th place points battle on the line.

“We Came up on 2 lap cars and neither of us 4 gave an inch. Hate that it caused a yellow but the racing was legit.”

The Team Penske driver added that he thought he had “screwed the 22 team” as a result of the incident and benefitted Kyle Busch, who led the race after not making a green flag pit stop.

Keselowski went on to finish fifth.

Truex finished second in a failed attempt to defend his 2017 title. His No. 78 Toyota lacked the short-run speed needed over the final run.

His fortunes were the opposite from 2017 when he capitalized on a late caution that involved Suarez and won the title.

“(Suarez) brought the caution out last year which won us the championship,” Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn said after the race. “This year it cost us the championship. You’ve got to be good, but you’ve got to have a bit of luck. At the end of the day, it just didn’t quite shake out.”

 

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With careers likely ending Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray are all smiles

Adrian Parker
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While Joey Logano celebrated his first Cup Series title Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, two friends posed for a picture on pit road.

Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray were all smiles.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Kenseth had just finished sixth in his 665th and likely last Cup start.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s McMurray placed 18th in possibly his last start as a full-time driver.

Kenseth, who returned to Roush this season for 15 starts in the No. 6 Ford after losing his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing, hasn’t announced any plans for 2019 season.

The 2003 Cup champion told NBC Sports in September he wasn’t looking for a ride, but that he was “looking forward to still being a part” of Roush, which he raced for in Cup from 1999 – 2012 before moving to JGR.

“I think it’s cool to end it there” Kenseth said. “You never know what’s going to pop up. Maybe something will pop up where you need to run a few races and there’s some opportunities.”

Should his career be over, Kenseth provided a nice bookend to it. As a 26-year-old in 1998, Kenseth made his Cup debut at Dover International Speedway, driving in place of Bill Elliott in his No. 94 McDonald’s Ford. Elliott missed that race to attend his father’s funeral.

Kenseth started that race 19th and placed sixth.

McMurray is still deciding on what’s in store for him next year.

The seven-time Cup winner has an offer from Chip Ganassi to compete in the Daytona 500 in a third car before transitioning into a management role for the team he competed for from 2002-05 and ’10-18.

The 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner said over the weekend there’s “a lot of other things that I’m going through trying to figure out that I can’t say, but I hope I can soon.”

But the 42-year-old said he is at peace with the likely end of his NASCAR career after talking with former teammates such as Casey Mears, Greg Biffle and Kenseth.

“I’ve talked to a lot of drivers that have recently went through it, and everyone’s story is exactly the same,” McMurray said. “And so if I feel the way that they do, I’m looking forward to three to four races into next year.”

Should McMurray’s career end with the Daytona 500, he would exit the cockpit after 583 Cup starts.

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Jimmie Johnson looks forward to ‘clean start’ after first winless season

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After a “tough” night to cap off the first winless season of his career, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is looking forward to a “clean start” to his career in 2019.

That clean start is closer after Johnson placed 14th in Sunday’s Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which marked his final race with crew chief Chad Knaus and his last race with sponsor Lowe’s.

Driving a car with the paint scheme his No. 48 sported in his 2002 rookie season, Johnson was unable to recreate some of the magic he and Knaus displayed over the last 17 years.

Johnson started 19th and ran as high as third during green flag pit stops with 30 laps to go. He was 10th on the final restart with 15 laps to go before losing four spots.

“Sad ending to a sweet story,” Knaus told NBCSN.

Johnson and Knaus end their tenure together after 604 starts, 81 wins and 219 top fives.

“You know it’s time for us to move on and have a new project and have new people to work with,” Johnson said. “But (Knaus) is my brother, there is just no way around it. So, not an easy situation. It sure has not been easy, especially the second half of the year.”

Johnson wants to reflect on all he and Knaus accomplished “instead of reflecting on this year and how bad it was because I know that reality, I’ve been living it first-hand.”

Johnson is winless in his last 59 starts.

“In my Cup career that is probably the most difficult year that I have had,” Johnson said. “I can look back at some other years where I had different challenges of not having a sponsor or maybe not having a ride and dealing with adversity there. As far as having a fully funded high-qualify ride, that was… ’18 was by far the toughest. 2015 was pretty tough, but this was still tougher than that. Especially, to work through the decision to go separate ways with Chad that was probably… early in the year, kind of mid-season when we made that decision and working through that scenario wasn’t easy. Just glad to finish with a respectable result today, but we’ve got a lot of work to do as a company.”

When NASCAR returns to Daytona in February, Knaus will be paired with William Byron on the No. 24 next year while Johnson will have Kevin Meendering as his crew chief.

“We will work very close together and I think even on a deeper level than where we have been the last couple of years,” Johnson said. “The last couple of years have been tough. William is a great guy and I’ve been working closely with him and obviously, Chad is going to be working with William. We will all be in there working together without a doubt.”

 

Joey Logano wins Cup finale in Miami, championship

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Joey Logano clinched his first Cup Series title Sunday with a win in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Logano led the final 12 laps after he passed Martin Truex Jr. in Turn 1 on the outside. Truex, who finished second, never challenged Logano again.

Kevin Harvick placed third and Kyle Busch finished fourth.

MORE: Harvick and Busch come up short in career years

“We did it! We won the championship. I can’t believe it,” Logano told NBC. “I don’t even know what to say. This team, Roger Penske, (crew chief) Todd Gordon, the pit crew, oh my God. Those guys are amazing. They gave me the car I needed at the end to do my job. Put me in position to do my job. Couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Logano’s championship comes in his 10th full-time season in Cup, his sixth with Team Penske and a year after he missed the playoffs.

“I’ve worked my whole life to get here,” Logano said. “I’ve spent 10 seasons fighting for this. Wasn’t sure we were going to get it, but man, Todd made a great adjustment there at the end. He has a no quit attitude and I was going to pass (Truex) no matter what.”

Truex, the defending champion, finished second after he led 20 laps. It was the final race for Furniture Row Racing, which will close with the end of the season.

“I’m going to miss these guys, wish we could have won it,” Truex told NBC. “We had it. We couldn’t go over 15 laps. I knew that last restart was going be tough … I was just slow for 15 laps.”

The championship is the second for Team Penske, which won its first in 2012 with Brad Keselowski.

The title is the first for Ford in Cup since Kurt Busch won it in 2004.

Logano entered the race as the only member of the Championship 4 without a title.

The race’s final 15-lap run was set up by a caution involving Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski. Busch led at the time, the only one of the Championship 4 who had not made a green flag pit stop.

Busch then beat the field off pit road, but Truex took the lead on the restart.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Larson

MORE: Race results

MORE: Final point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: In likely his final Cup start, Matt Kenseth finished sixth for his best result in 15 starts this year … Brad Keselowski placed fifth for his third top five in the last four races.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Larson led 45 laps but finished 13th after he cut a tire and got into wall on Lap 193 … After his incident with Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez placed 30th in his last start with Joe Gibbs Racing … Regan Smith finished 39th, 27 laps off the lead after he went to the garage during the pre-race pace laps for an oil leak.

NOTABLE: Denny Hamlin (12 years) and Jimmie Johnson (16 years) each ended streaks of seasons with at least one win … Johnson placed 14th in his final race with crew chief Chad Knaus and with sponsor Lowe’s.

QUOTE OF THE RACE No. 1: “Just a lot of screaming. I think I pulled a muscle.” – Joey Logano to NBC on what he did as he took the checkered flag.

QUOTE OF THE RACE No. 2: “I don’t want him to change at all. In fact I think he did just what he did today. He beat all these guys fair and square.” – Roger Penske to NBCSN on Joey Logano.

WHAT’S NEXT: Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17.

Today’s Cup race at Miami: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR season comes to a close today with the Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and defending champion Martin Truex Jr. will decide the title.

Whoever has the best finish, wins the championship.

Here’s all the info you need for the season finale.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Actor Josh Dallas of NBC’s “Manifest” will give the command to start engines at 3:11 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 9 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m. Moment of silence for David Pearson at 3:03 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Sr. Master Sergeant Ryan Carson will perform the anthem at 3:05 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. with NASCAR America on NBCSN and switches to NBC at 1:30 p.m. Countdown to Green beings at 2 p.m. on NBC. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 82 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Martin Truex Jr. led the final 51 laps to win the race and championship over Kyle Busch.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the complete starting grid.