Racin’ with Russ - Despite some damaging high-speed winds during NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying, Brad Keselowski started eighth and proceeded to walk away from the field during the later stages on Saturday night’s race to claim his third win of the season.
Like a lot of other areas on the East Coast hit with severe thunderstorms starting on Friday night, Kentucky took its lumps early in the weekend while millions of residents were looking for generators and chain saws to stay ahead of the carnage.
Not everyone had electricity or cable to view the race, and there did appear to be numerous empty seats at the second annual cup race, but the event itself went off without a hitch.
Jimmie Johnson started from the pole but led only 21 laps, a mere pittance compared to lap leader Kyle Busch and eventual winner Keselowski, with 68.
Busch looked strong for a long time and appeared to be on track to end his recent string of poor performances which have mired him out of the top 10 in points.
That is, until he used the wall as a cushion and broke a shock absorber.
He was still able to wrestle his ill-handling car to a 10th-place finish, but it was not where he wanted to be.
All of the Hendrick Chevrolets had a good evening despite a few hiccups here and there, both on and off the track.
Kasey Kahne rallied back strongly to finish as runner-up even after a loose lug nut and an extra pit stop. Others in the top five included Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon.
Other notable events in what turned out to be a so-so race included Tony Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman finishing deep in the pack due to mechanical issues for Stewart and a blown engine for Newman. These results led to both dropping in the points, to ninth and 15th, respectively.
Carl Edwards looked as though he were heading for a much-needed top-five finish until a miscalculation on the team's part left last year’s runner-up pitting for a splash of go-juice with less than a handful of laps to go.
Edwards netted a very disappointing 20th-place run.
Keselowski’s third win of 2012 has all but assured the Penske driver a spot in the Chase.
The points battle still has Matt Kenseth on top, but only by 11 markers over Earnhardt Jr. and 23 over Johnson.
Austin Dillon came, went and kicked some serious butt on Friday night’s Nationwide race, eclipsing a healthy contingent of visiting Sprint Cup drivers such as Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.
The 22-year-old rookie sensation led the most laps—by a wide margin—and by the time the checkered flag flew, the Childress driver had lapped all but the top eight cars while taking his very first Nationwide win.
Only two cautions for 12 laps and a very strong car equaled many cars down many laps and a fairly uneventful race.
Kurt Busch was nearly 10 seconds back of the leader at the stripe, followed by Harvick, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier.
Danica Patrick started 11th and finished 12th, some two laps down to the leader.
The latest results now find Dillon ahead of Elliot Sadler, but only by two points, and 23 points over Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Note: Post-race inspections found Dillon’s car low by a whopping inch! Fines and penalties—which will more than likely involve five to 10 points and a lighter wallet for the crew chief by around $25,000—will be announced on Tuesday.
The special Thursday-night truck race in Kentucky was won by James Buescher in convincing fashion, as he often led by a wide margin.
It was the second career win for the young man, with Brad Keselowski, Ty Dillon, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters crossing the finish line not far behind.
Peters now leads the points.
Fifteen-year veteran racer Matt Kenseth announced he‘ll be leaving Roush-Fenway after this season for another full-time job, but he won’t elaborate at this time.
As Bob Pockrass of Sporting News reports, all signs point to the current points leader heading for Joe Gibbs Racing in a fourth Toyota, but there are other possibilities.
One idea thrown around includes his joining a much-rumored Dodge team led by Indy Car owner Michael Andretti, which Dodge has shot down (news via autoweek.com).
I think that concept is more far fetched than joining Gibbs.
But stay tuned.
It does seem kind of weird to get rid of a true class act like Kenseth, who has won the Daytona 500 and leads the current points standings. From all reports, this whole deal was started by Kenseth, not Roush.
By the way, reigning Nationwide champion and fellow Roush-Fenway driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will fill the seat in the No. 17 vacated by Kenseth starting in February.
That’s it for this week.
Next week, RWR will review the NASCAR action from Daytona, along with more racing news from around the globe.