The Finish Order: Keselowski Claims Latest Nationwide Win at Charlotte
BY DAVE GRAYSON
Brad Keselowski passed his Roger Penske Racing team mate Ryan Blaney, with 12 laps remaining, to win the Drive For The Cure, Presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, NASCAR Nationwide Series event, held October 10th, at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In those waning laps, Keselowski had to fend off a hard charging Kyle Busch. Unfortunately for Busch, time and laps simply ran out. Keselowski passed under the checkers by a slim margin of victory of 0.377 seconds. Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson completed the top five.
Driving the Discount Tire/Penske Racing Ford Mustang, Keselowski scored his fourth win of the season, in only nine starts and 31st career series’ win. He’s now tied with Jack Ingram for fifth place on the series’ all time win list.
In victory lane, the race winner said: “the novelty of being in victory lane hasn’t worn off. I don’t take these wins for granted or take these opportunities for granted.”
However, Keselowski did have at least one nerve wracking moment en route to victory lane. That nervous moment came on lap 55 when he scraped the retaining wall after a tire went down.
It would turn out that tire wear, once again played a high profile role in a NASCAR national touring series event. The race had eight yellow flags, and one red flag, that consumed 42 laps of the 200 lap event.
The race was barely one lap old when the first yellow appeared. A restart problem near the front of the pack created an accordion effect which ran its way to the back of the pack. J J Yeley got collected and slammed nose first into the wall. By the time the accordion finished playing, a whopping 11 cars were waded up and on their way to the garage area.
This was followed by a second caution flag, on lap 18, that saw Cale Conely hit the turn four wall after a right front tire went down. Multiple laps later, there were tire issues, and wall scrapes, involving race winner Keselowski as well as Ty Dillon.
There was also some vivid pit road video, from ESPN2, of tires unwinding due to excessive wear. These problem areas were very similar to what some of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams experienced during the Kansas Speedway event held during the previous weekend. At this point Sprint Cup crew chiefs were seen on pit road examining the tires being used in the Nationwide Series event. Some of the crew chiefs appeared to be very concerned because they were well aware of the fact that they would be using the very same tire during the Cup race on the following night.
Series points leader Chase Elliott started the race from the pole position and led a race high 66 laps. However, he finished a disappointing ninth in the final rundown due to frequent problems with restarts that followed caution flags. After the race a still visibly upset Elliott said: “I would think that I know how to restart a race at this point. This is one hundred percent pitiful in all honesty.”
Despite his disappointment, Elliott actually increased his lead over JR Motorsports team mate Regan Smith, who finished 11th, and now holds a commanding lead of 42 points in the standings. Solid finishes by Brian Scott and Elliott Sadler elevated those drivers to third and fourth.
Ty Dillon began the race ranked third in the series’ championship and was only two points away from Regan Smith. Unfortunately, Dillon’s title hopes may have unraveled following a lap 76 accident. Coming off of a restart, Dillon made a bold four wide move in order to gain track position. The result was a six car pile up. In all fairness, it was later revealed that Eric McClure blew a tire just as Dillon was making his ill advised move and that was also a contributor to the yellow flag. Dillon finished 30th in the race and fell to fifth, 64 points behind Elliott.
With only three races remaining in the Nationwide Series season, it now appears that Chase Elliott, an 18 year old series rookie, has a better than great chance of winning the Nationwide Series championship.
The Nationwide Series gets a three week break in their schedule and will return to action on November 1st at the Texas Motor Speedway.