Keselowski just getting started with Nationwide win
Brad Keselowski (22) slides down to pass Kyle Busch in turn two during the NASCAR Nationwide Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. Keselowski went on to win the race, Busch came in second. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Ted Christopher (13) pushes unsuccessfully to get by Robby Santos (44) as they leave turn four for the final stretch at NHMS in Saturday's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
Ted Christopher (13) leads the pack down the back stretch following a restart in the Sunoco 100 at NHMS on Saturday, July 12, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
Brad Keselowski celebrates after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
LOUDON – Brad Keselowski didn’t just win yesterday’s Nationwide Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He owned it.
The Sprint Cup regular and part-time driver of the No. 22 Hertz Ford Mustang led all but 48 laps of the day’s marquee event, and held off rival Kyle Busch for his second series victory of the season.
The 30-year-old became the third straight Nationwide driver to win from the pole at NHMS – Busch and Keselowski won from the helm in 2013 and 2012, respectively – while ending a 16-race winless streak by pole-sitters this season. Matt Kenseth crossed the line third, followed by Kyle Larson (fourth) and Chris Buescher (fifth).
The victory pulled Team Penske within 33 points of the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota owned by JD Gibbs – also piloted by a part-time driver in Busch – and gives Keselowski added confidence heading into today’s Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301.
“I think it’s a showing of strength for the No. 22 Penske team,” said Keselowski, after his 29th-career Nationwide victory. “We’re very optimistic and very pleased with how the weekend has gone so far. I’m just really, really proud of the effort.”
Keselowski said he was growing concerned over the race’s waning laps with Busch seemingly reeling him in, but the eventual runner-up finisher said he never thought he’d be able to reclaim the lead. Busch, also a part-time driver in the Nationwide Series, led the race’s first 34 laps.
Busch pulled within three car lengths of Keselowski with less than 10 laps remaining, but couldn’t recover after brushing the side of a lapped car on the backstretch. As a result, Keselowski managed to pull away for the comfortable win.
“We got what we could out of our Monster Energy Camry,” said Busch, who will start from the pole in today’s Sprint Cup series race. “We had a second-place car all weekend. It’s good to come out of here with the points that we deserved. We fought hard there at the end, but it wasn’t quite enough.”
Championship contender Elliott Sadler chipped into Regan Smith’s points lead with a sixth-place finish, and is now eight points shy of the top spot. Smith placed 10th yesterday. Chase Elliott, who finished eighth, is now third in the standings.
The race featured six cautions for 27 laps, with only two cautions coming because of on-track incidents. The first was a Lap 6 caution after a flat tire to Trevor Bayne, while a seven-car wreck on Lap 108 brought out the yellow flag for five laps.
Team Penske will try to build off the momentum it picked up in New Hampshire when it travels to Illinois on July 19 for the Enjoyillinois.com 300 at Chicagoland. Keselowski last won the race in 2012.
“This team did a great job taking advantage of what we had and making adjustments,” Keselowski said. “You might not have know it from TV, but that was one of the most challenging races I’ve ran.”
Bobby Santos always knew how to win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He just hadn’t done it yet.
So with a single turn and a single car standing between him and his third Whelen Modified Tour victory of the season, the 28-year-old Franklin, Mass., native decide to change all that.
Santos waited patiently as Ted Christopher tried to protect his lead by diving low into Turn 3, and as the five-time NHMS winner began to slide up the banking with too much speed, the No. 44 Tinio Racing/Imperialcars.com machine was there to pounce.
Just as he’d planned, Santos replaced Christopher at the bottom of the track in the final turn and used that momentum to take his first lead of the race ahead of the checkered flag. It was his first victory at the Magic Mile in 16 career starts.
Doug Coby came from the third spot to finish second, while Christopher (third), Sprint Cup Series regular Ryan Newman (fourth) and Ryan Preece (fifth) rounded out the top 5.
“I’ve never been in the position on the last lap to win one of these things,” Santos said after his 13th career victory. “I knew Teddy was going to drive it in and protect the bottom. … He did what I expected and it worked out. I knew at some point his car was going to wash up in the middle of the corner. It worked out like I planned, so I was lucky.”
The race’s ending was delayed twice as some late cautions resulted in a pair of attempts at a green-white-chekered finish. Santos restarted third during NASCAR’s first overtime period, but made his way to second – which later proved pivotal – before the race’s eighth and final caution was brought out when Donny Lia hit the wall hard exiting Turn 4.
Like Santos, Coby said he knew what was coming heading into the final green-white-checkered finish – specifically the final turn. The driver of the No. 2 Dunleavy’s Repair/HEX Performance Chevrolet said he hoped Christopher would stay high and accept help from behind, but was satisfied with the ending nonetheless.
“When Ted took the bottom I knew Bobby was content to let him slide up and get down under him,” Coby said. “I tell you, it was close coming off Turn 4. I’m happy with second, I’m happy the car’s in one piece and I’m happy the fans got a good show.”
“As long as we put a good show on, I don’t care,” he said. “Obviously I picked the wrong (scenario) on that last green-white-checkered, but it’s definitely something to build on.”
Todd Szegedy, who won last fall at NHMS, led 24 laps yesterday and was in contention to head back to Victory Lane until sustaining drivetrain issues with 12 laps remaining. Pole-sitter Ron Silk led a race-high 36 laps only to finish ninth.
For Santos, the victory helped edge his team closer to the series points lead behind Coby at the halfway point of the season. The series will head west to Monadnock Speedway in Winchester for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 on Saturday.
“This is the biggest Modified win of my career, for sure,” Santos said. “This is our Super Bowl. It doesn’t get much cooler than to race in front of the NASCAR guys at this track.”