Broken Ankle; No Problem
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended a six-race swoon with a solid ninth place finish at Pocono and holds on to a Top 10 spot in the Championship standings (photo courtesy: Jeff Zelevansky, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Brad Keselowski didn't let an injured left ankle slow him down on Sunday at Pocono as he held off Kyle Busch in a tight finish to score his second Sprint Cup Series win of the season.
After fracturing his ankle in a testing crash at Road Atlanta on Wednesday, Keselowski went out and vaulted into the first wild card spot for the Chase by leading 19 laps en route to the checkered flag. There are five races left to determine those drivers eligible for the Chase For The Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, call (866) 409-RACE.
“It’s not me, its good people,” Keselowski said. “It’s having a Paul Wolfe (crew chief) and a team that digs. There are so many people to thank for being in victory lane, from Miller Lite to Sprint to the fans.
“I’m no hero. The heroes are the guys that died in Afghanistan this weekend and I want to spend time thinking about them. They were my inspiration for this weekend and the things that those guys do. I’m glad that we could win today, but those are the heroes. I just drive race cars for a living.”
The win also puts Keselowski in the hunt for the Sprint Summer Showdown and a $1 million bonus if he can win the Labor Day weekend race at Atlanta.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’d like to win that money, but I’d much rather get these guys in the Chase. I would throw away the money if I could promise them we’d be in the Chase and have a good run at the championship. “
The victory makes Keselowski the Wild Card leader on the strength of his two victories with five races left to decide this year’s playoff field. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, call (866) 409-RACE.
While Keselowski was holding off Busch for the win the closing laps also featured a heated battle between five-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson and 2004 Sprint Cup Kurt Busch for third. The two made contact several times racing together down the backstretch and after Busch edged Johnson for third place the duo had words for each other when they met on pit road.
“You want to race, let’s race,” Busch said. “I raced him smart, raced him clean, and he wants to come back here and (complain) about it. Why can’t we race each other like this and put on a show for the fans?”
Johnson, who has a history of similar incidents racing with Busch over the years, was not about to back down from his position.
"I'm not going to run people over to pass them," Johnson said. "That's just not me. I worked on him for however many laps trying to get by him clean – fair and square – and then as I got up next to him, we had an issue off of (Turn 2). I'll just keep filing things away and remember this stuff."
Carl Edwards leads Johnson by nine in the Sprint Cup Series standings with Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick comprising the Top 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. sits tenth for the final Chase transfer spot based on points while Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are the Wild Card leaders. Defending Ford 400 winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Edwards was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson this fall when NASCAR crowns a Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, call (866) 409-RACE.
NASCAR’s most popular driver Earnhardt finished in the Top 10. And for that, he had to smile after ending a six-race skid during which he had an average finish of 24th and fell from third to 10th in the Sprint Cup standings.
“Our car had speed. I was like, ‘Heck yeah man,’” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I drove up to fifth there one time and was racing around the top four. That’s how we were running at the start of the year. I’m kind of happy about that.
“Hopefully we’ve got it figured out. I know the road course [at Watkins Glen] could be feast or famine for us [next week]. If we have a bad day there I really won’t be too concerned, but as far as oval racing – what I love – I think we’re getting a little better at it again.”
Earnhardt Jr. remained 10th in the Cup standings and kept pace with the drivers he is racing for a spot in the top 10 and the Chase For The Sprint Cup. Ryan Newman, who is eighth in points, finished fifth and Tony Stewart, ninth in the standings, finished 11th.The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, call (866) 409-RACE.