Wild race blows championship open for Keselowski
Wild race blows championship open for Keselowski
Only he wasn’t in a celebratory mood.
He entered Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway trailing five-time champion Jimmie Johnson by seven points and had the better car all day. And moments after Keselowski raced his way into the lead, a blown tire caused Johnson to crash and take his battered car to the garage for repairs.
It helped Keselowski, who finished sixth, to a 20-point lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he’ll clinch the title with a finish of 15th or better.
“I wanted to take the points lead by winning a race and not relying on a failure,” Keselowski said.
Johnson’s sudden misfortune was a dramatic and stunning turn in the most chaotic race of the year.
It proved to be just the warm-up act in a race that could go down as the one many fans will call the best of the season.
Probably for all the wrong reasons. And that’s what had Keselowski so upset.
“I’m more just disappointed in the quality of racing that we saw,” he said. “I thought it was absolutely ridiculous, and I was ashamed to be a part of it.”
Kevin Harvick snapped a 44-race losing streak by beating Kyle Busch on a pair of late restarts, the ironic winner on the same weekend news leaked he’s reportedly signed a deal to leave Richard Childress Racing to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
“We have 2012, we have 2013, and regardless of what happens on a business side of things, Richard Childress and myself will always be friends, good or bad, and may agree to disagree,” Harvick said, “but we still have a lot of racing left to do and we owe it to our sponsors and our company to go out and do exactly what we did today and be men and do the best we can for everybody.”
Harvick and Busch crossed the finish line ahead of a melee of crashing cars, a chain reaction caused in part because NASCAR failed to throw a caution when Danica Patrick was spun on the restart. Then others slid in oil, into Patrick’s wrecked car, bounced all over the track, and even Keselowski was hit.
“There was a lot of stuff on the race track, there was oil all over it. Ray Charles could see that,” second-place finisher Denny Hamlin said.
Busch, who finished third, also saw the oil all over the track.
“Not sure if (NASCAR) had time to react to all that, but granted, you would expect that they would see all of that and see the oil slick,” he said. “I mean, it wasn’t small by any means. It was three feet wide.”
But the carnage was simply the final exclamation point in a sequence triggered by four-time champion Jeff Gordon. He intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer, and that led to a full brawl in the garage and a red-flag of nearly 15 minutes for clean up on the track.
Keselowski was tweeting during the delay from inside his car — a practice he first did during a jet fuel fire in the season-opening Daytona 500 — and NASCAR had officially reached three-ring circus status.
“The sport was made on fights. We should have more fights. I like fights,” Harvick said after the race. “They’re not always fun to be in, sometimes you’re on the wrong end, but fights are what made NASCAR what it is.”
This one began as the field closed in on what should have been the final lap and Gordon slowed his car to wait for Bowyer so he could intentionally wreck him as retaliation for several weeks of on-track contact between the two.
After Gordon climbed from his car in the garage, he appeared to be jumped from behind by one of Bowyer’s crew members. It led to a full brawl between the crews, with Bowyer sprinting from his car to join the fracas. Bowyer was held back by NASCAR officials from entering Gordon’s hauler.
“It’s pretty embarrassing,” Bowyer said. “For a four-time champion, and what I consider one of the best this sport’s ever seen to act like this is pretty ridiculous.”
Both drivers and their crew chiefs were called to the NASCAR hauler for a meeting with series officials, and police officers stood outside on guard.
Gordon said he’s had problems with Bowyer all season and had reached his limit.
“Things just got escalated over the year, and I’d just had it,” he said. “Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me, and he got into me on the back straightaway and pretty much ruined our day. I’ve had it, fed up with it and I got him back.”
He said he didn’t know what penalties might be coming from NASCAR.
“They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, and I guess I had to do what,” he said.
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the situation would be looked at further this week.
‘We want to make Saudi Arabia proud’: Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt
- Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
- Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious
ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup.
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target.
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal.
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction.
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.