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NASCAR and MotorSports – From a Queer Perspective

Knockout Qualifying is Paying Off for Excitement

This was the second week for NASCAR’s new “Knock-Out” Qualifying procedure, and the first for the three-round format used on tracks longer than a mile.

The goal of this new system was to create excitement and it is working.  The only complaints from fans seem to be realted to the delay on the Fox Broadcast – but you can’t blame Fox, they need to run commercials to pay the bills, and they want to show every lap – so they front load the delay.  Actually, if it weren’t for the immediate updates from media on Twitter this delay wouldn’t be noticed by the fans at home.

There is a recurring complaint from drivers about the cool down procedure.  Cars will run several cool down laps on the apron of the track while other cars attempt to qualify  - running at speeds 150 mph faster than the cars who are running cool down laps.

Clint Bowyer said the cool down laps were “Dangerous” and NASCAR needed to address the situation.  He added that Dale Jr came off the apron while on a cool down lap and he almsot hit the #88, saying “that could have hurt me and hurt Dale Jr, which would be bad for business.”

Team Penske seems to have the new qualifying process figured out – Both Penske cars started on the front row last week in Phoenix and both cars will be on the front row in Vegas when the green flag falls on Sunday.

Last week, Keselowski knocked Logano off the top spot in the final round and this week the rolls were reversed with Logano knocking Brad off the top of the charts to win the Pole.

 

Kyle Busch holds off Brad Keselowski for Cup win at the Glen

[ via NASCAR Wire Service - by Reid Spencer ]

credit NASCAR

The third time may have been the charm for Kyle Busch, but it was a jinx for pole winner Marcos Ambrose.

Having surrendered the lead late in the last two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen International, Busch reversed the trend Sunday in winning the Cheez-It 355 at the 2.45-mile road course by .486 seconds over runner-up Brad Keselowski.

Ambrose had the race in hand, having led 51 of the first 61 laps, until an inopportune caution in the middle of a pit stop cycle dropped him back to 12th for a restart on Lap 64 of 90. Busch grabbed the lead when Ambrose came to pit road under yellow on Lap 62 and held it the rest of the way.

A wreck on Lap 85 ended Ambrose’s bid for a third straight win at the Glen.

Martin Truex Jr. ran third, followed by Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya. Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger completed the top 10.

Busch, who was already on pit road when the fifth caution changed the race on Lap 60, nevertheless had to survive a succession of restarts in the final 15 laps before edging Keselowski for the victory in a two-lap shootout. Busch collected his third win of the season, his second at the Glen and the 27th of his career–but nothing about it was easy.

And he can thank Keselowski for resisting the temptation to move him out of the way in the final two corners.

“It was just run as hard as you can, drive your car, try not to worry about what’s behind, whatever happens, happens–we’ll deal with it,” Busch said. “I commend Brad for doing a better job this year at bringing home a cleaner race.
“I felt we ran really hard there those last couple laps. I couldn’t get away from him. My car wouldn’t turn through the corners as well a s I needed it to. I just couldn’t get the front tires to bite, and so he could catch me through the corners. But in the braking zones and exiting the corners, I felt like I was really strong and could get away from him.”

Last year, Keselowski spun Busch in Turn 3 with fewer than two laps left, as the cars slid on a glaze of oil. This race was a completely different matter, Keselowski said.

“I could have dumped Kyle and won the race,” said the defending Cup champion, who climbed to eighth in the series standings on the strength of the runner-up finish. “That stuff goes back and forth, and I’m sure someone in the tabloid side of the media will make a big deal about that, but it won’t be me, because I know I did the right thing…

“It doesn’t mean there isn’t temptation, but there’s a level of respect and a code of honor that you have to have as a man.”

The race turned on a dime when Aric Almirola’s Ford nosed into a tire barrier after a blowing a tire on Lap 60 to cause a caution that interrupted a cycle of pit stops and knocked Ambrose out of the lead. Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch had already made their final stops, and that quintet led the field to green on Lap 64.

In fact, Dave Rogers, Kyle Busch’s crew chief, credited his race engineers with the call to bring the driver of the No. 18 Toyota to pit road on Lap 59 before NASCAR threw the yellow for Almirola’s incident.

“We weren’t sure exactly where we were fuel-mileage-wise, so we were going to push to Lap 60, and I’ve actually got to give credit to my two engineers,” Rogers said. “They got talking, and they saw some people sliding around. Steve Hoegler, one of the engineers, said ‘There’s fluid on the track; you’d better get him in.’

“So it was a last-minute call to get Kyle on pit road, and the next thing you know, there was a caution, so it worked out great.”

Absent a threat from Ambrose, Busch pulled away to a lead of more than two seconds before caution for debris slowed the field for the sixth time on Lap 77. The race restarted on Lap 81, with Busch, Keselowski, Truex and Bowyer in the top four spots.

Busch’s work, however, was far from over. After the restart, a wild wreck involving Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought out the seventh caution and required another restart on Lap 85.

Contact between Max Papis’ Chevrolet and Ambrose’s Ford ignited an accident on the restart lap, with Brian Vickers’ No. 55 Toyota also collected in the melee. Forced to lead the field to green for the third time in 15 laps, Busch got away on the restart and held off Keselowski in a battle that intensified on the final circuit.

The wildly fluctuating fortunes of Jeff Gordon hit another low point at the Glen. Gordon pulled up behind Denny Hamlin’s Toyota as the cars climbed through the esses on Lap 14. Gordon’s Chevy twitched left into the Turn 4 guard rail, slid across the track and nosed into the barrier on the opposite side.

The four-time Cup champion lost 23 laps in the garage as his team repaired the car. Though Gordon returned to the track on Lap 37, he finished 36th and fell out of the top 10 in the series standings.

Notes: Not that there was any suspense surrounding Jimmie Johnson’s quest to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the 10th straight season, but the series leader clinched at least a wild-card spot in the Chase with his eighth-place finish… Max Papis ran 15th subbing for injured Tony Stewart, keeping the No. 14 Chevrolet in the second provisional wild-card spot for the owners’ Chase

 

Out of the Tunnel Show 54

This week Adam and I talk his trip to Kentucky Speedway for the Nationwide Race and his rained out attempt to see a Cup Race.

We recap the tough day for Denny Hamlin, Dale Jr and Brad Keselowski.  Matt Kenseth snatched a victory from the dominant Jimmie Johnson who loves to complain about people not respecting the pace car – except when it comes to him not respecting the pace car  and we discuss Kyle Petty’s misguided thoughts about Danica Patrick.

All that plus, what’s up out butts!

You can listen to the show three ways:

1) on iTunes: click here to listen on iTunes - be sure to subscribe, rate us and leave a comment.

2)  listen right here on Q4G:  click play - 

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3)  you can download the show directly to your device by clicking here

Westboro Baptist Church Plans NASCAR Protest at Kansas Speedway

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Maggie Phelps, spokeperson for the Westboro Baptist Church and their endless “God Hates Fags” campaign that have plagued the funerals of US Soldiers and the children in Newtown have turned their eyes on NASCAR. The daughter of the Church’s founder says that they are planning a protest at a NASCAR race. Tueday, Phelps Tweeted. “NASCAR is racing fag cars.”

 

It’s not clear what set them off, but it appears it may have been an interview by Queers4Gears with Brad Keselowski in Phoenix.  The current Sprint Cup Champion said there was room for an openly gay driver in the sport. In a seperate tweet, Phelps linked to an SB   Nation/Outsports article that had picked up on the Keselowski interview, adding, “Next they’ll have a splashy fag wedding.”

 

The leader of the “church” tweeted that the injury of the fans in Daytona was a punishment from God because NASCAR is pro-gay (follow the link in his tweet)

 

As of now, there is no indication of what race the Westboro Baptist Church plans to protest.

Queers4Gears spoke to NASCAR this morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, they agree with what Keselowski said and will stand with their driver.

UPDATE:

The Worstboro Baptist Church will be picketing at the Kansas Race on April 21st. You can read the announcement from their site – note their note at the end: “God Hates Brad Keselowski”

Queers4Gears reached out to Kansas Speedway to ask if the Westboro Protesters would be welcome on the Speedway grounds or required to use a public space outside of the Speedway.

Kelly Hale, Director of Public Relations said, “We do have a spot on speedway grounds that groups that want to protest are welcome to use. We worked closely with our local law enforcement to make sure the area is safe for the groups but also doesn’t create congestion for traffic (we’re located across the street from restaurants, retail destinations and hotels).”


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Keselowski’s Definition of “Diversity” is Wholely Inculsive

credit: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images for NASCAR

Brad Keselowski thinks there is room in NASCAR for an openly gay driver.  ”I don’t think anyone cares (if a driver is gay.) If you can win, you’ll have a ride in NASCAR,” Keselowski told Queers4Gears Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway.

The current Sprint Cup Series Champion has quickly become a fan and media favorite for his seemingly effortless ability to speak his mind.  In a day and age  when most driver’s comments are limited to thanking a list of sponsors, Keselowski’s honesty and determination to let his thoughts be known, makes the driver connect with fans in ways not seen since Dale “the common man” Senior.

Before the season opened in Daytona, Keselowski sat down with Nate Ryan from USA Today for a interview in which Brad shared his vision for the future of NASCAR.

In the far reaching interview Keselowski shared his thoughts on what he would like to see change in the sport – from how sponsorship dollars are allocated, ways to improve the competition on track and how the sanctioning body (and tracks) can do a better job with social media.

With the success of NASCAR’s “Drive for Diversity” program and Danica Patrick’s arrival in Sprint Cup,  the word “diversity” has been on everyone’s tongue.  Keselowski offered a frank and refreshing answer that erased any factor from the equation for success… other than the ability to drive:

“There’s no reason why someone from a multicultural background can’t make it in this sport.

There are limiting factors for everybody. At this level, I don’t see bigotry. If there was a Latino or African-American driver that could run as well as Jeff Gordon now, he’d be here running. Team owners don’t care. And (drivers) don’t care.

- via USA Today

The unequivocal nature of that answer left us here at Queer4Gears wanting to press Brad further on the topic – would his answer have been identical if he were asked about an openly gay driver.

Turns out, the answer is yes.  Keselowski reaffirmed the only thing that matters in the garage is ability.

When asked if an openly gay driver would have more trouble earning acceptance from the fans or their fellow drivers, Keselowski added, “I can’t speak for the fans, I can only speak for myself, but in this garage, if you can win, people will want to be a part of what you can do.”

And isn’t that the way it should be?

Finally, when it comes to the label of “truth teller,” Keselowski shrugs that thought off.  ”That’s not for me to say….. that’s for you (the press) to say. It’s like a nickname, you can’t give yourself a nickname.  I guess time will tell if I’m that guy.”

RELATED:  Last year, Keselowski tweeted his thoughts about Westboro Baptist Church 

Brad Keselowski clinches championship, as Jeff Gordon wins at Homestead

[ via NASCAR Wire Service - by Reid Spencer ]

Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

The fuel strategy that was supposed to carry Jimmie Johnson to a sixth championship instead made a winner of his teammate, Jeff Gordon, who triumphed in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Brad Keselowski locked up the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

Gordon crossed the finish line 1.028 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer, his nemesis from a week ago at Phoenix, as Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet sat forlorn in the garage, Johnson’s title hopes the victim of a pit road mistake and a rare part failure.

Ryan Newman ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle.

Keselowski finished 15th, a lap down, but Johnson’s difficulties took the suspense out of the title fight in the closing laps of the race. Johnson entered the season finale 20 points behind Keselowski, but his 36th-place result cost him second place in the final standings.

The Cup championship was the first for team owner Roger Penske, and the first since 1975 for car maker Dodge, which is leaving Cup racing at the end of the season.

“It means the world — it really does,” Keselowski said. “I’ve got the best team in racing, and I’m just so thrilled to be a part of it. From the top down, Roger Penske, (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, everybody else, the crew guys and my family — that means so much.”"

Bowyer passed Johnson for the second spot in the standings, 39 points behind the first-time champion. Johnson held third, 40 points back; in 11 full seasons of Cup racing, Johnson never has finished lower than sixth.

Gordon made some history of his own. He won for the second time this year and the 87th time in his career, most among active drivers and third-most all-time behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). The victory was Gordon’s first at Homestead and the first for Hendrick Motorsports.

“This is just huge,” said Gordon, who wrecked Bowyer in retaliation last Sunday at Phoenix and drew a $100,000 fine and 25-point penalty for his actions. “Man, it’s been an emotional week and a hard one — one of the hardest ones I’ve ever gone through, just looking back on my decision.

“What an unbelievable week. There were so many ups and downs this week, and to be able to end in Victory Lane with just an awesome team effort was just awesome… This is the way you want to win a race, by just going to battle with them and having a good race car and playing it all out really smart.”

Aggressive pit strategy put Johnson in position to challenge for the title, but the race fell apart for the 48 team after the 200-lap mark.

Able to finish the race on one pit stop to Keselowski’s two, Johnson brought the No. 48 Chevrolet to pit road on Lap 214. Johnson, however, pulled away from his stall with a loose lug nut, and NASCAR mandated another stop to correct the error.

The coup de grace came on Lap 224, when Johnson returned to pit road with the drive line problem. The No. 48 crew pushed the car to the garage, where it sat for the rest of the race.

“Yeah, we were in position and putting the pressure on the 2 car (Keselowski) like we needed to,” Johnson said ruefully. “I said at the beginning of the week, 15th isn’t a lay?up, and I certainly had him in position.

“He made it really interesting here at the end of this thing. If we could have not had the mistake on pit road and then the gear failure at the end… Didn’t really catch exactly what happened, but I know there was oil under the back of the car.”

Keselowski, who didn’t cover Johnson’s move when the No. 48 topped off the fuel tank on Lap 158, knew he had dodged a bullet.

“He was going to win this race, and I know that,” Keselowski said. “We were not as fast as we wanted to be, and we’d be the first to admit that, but my guys never gave up. We kept working, and at the end there we were even capable of getting back up enough to where it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d have won — which made me feel a lot better.”

Notes: Pole winner Joey Logano started from the rear in a back-up car after a crash in practice and finished 14th in his last race for Joe Gibbs Racing… Matt Kenseth ran 18th in his last ride at Roush Fenway Racing… Tony Stewart finished 17th in the 500th Cup start of his career.

Gaynalysis: Down and Out in the Valley of Phoenix

The Gaynalysis is just one gay NASCAR fan’s take on the race weekend.  You can read the “straight recap” of the race from Phoenix by clicking here.

Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Something funny happened on the way to Homestead.  Phoenix.

One phrase keeps coming to mind when I think about everything that happened at PIR, “You can’t make this shit up.”

First, in the matter of full disclosure – I didn’t see any of it.  I left the race early  - with about 100 laps to go and missed all of the drama.  I had already been in Arizona for a week; combining a work trip with NASCAR – but I had to drive back to Vegas Sunday to un-pack, launder and re-pack for the next trip.  Currently, I am sitting a plane heading back to the Carolinas for some sales meetings.

I listened to the end of the race on Sirius, tuned into the all of the angry callers after the race and I did get to see the highlight reel when I got back home later that night.

What a mess!  Where do I even start.  How about the winner – Kevin Harvick.  This was his first win of the season (for himself and his team) but it only adds more confusion to the breaking news that Harvick would depart RCR in 2014.  As first reported by ESPN, Harvick will take his happy self to Stewart-Hass Racing in 2014 but will run the Bud #29 for Childress in 2013.

Rumors swirled that Richard Childress was not happy with how the news leaked out – but no one in the garage was that shocked.  Kevin hasn’t been happy at RCR since last season – and everyone knows that Pop-Pop is aiming to put his 2 grand kids in his Cup Rides sooner rather that later.  The writing was on the wall and Harvick has charted the next course in his career.

The win is an important one for Harvick – but any rumors of unrest between Harvick and Childress were dispelled as they both hugged and stood side-by-side in Victory Lane.  It was a first-time trip to the winner’s circle for Keelan Harvick – who parents were beaming under a stream of confetti.

Now… to the good part…. the juicy part….. all the drama.   Let’s break it down by the players involved.

Jimmie Johnson:  Where’s the horseshoe now?  The weekend didn’t start well for 5-time, he was slow in practice and qualified P24 to start the show.  The beginning of the race played out like any other Chad-and-Jimmie Saga… start poor, work-work-work on the car and dial it in…. the tested strategy was working as Jimmie chased Brad to the front of the field.

Then his brakes got too hot, melted a bead (not what hippies do in college with that play-dough and an oven) then blew a right front tire and slapped the wall hard. The #48 went behind the wall and lost nearly 40 laps trying to get the Lowes Chevy fixed and back out.  Eventually Johnson got back out and limped to 32nd place finish and far worse – 20 points behind Bad Brad heading into Homestead.

Which brings us to Brad.  Poor poor Brad?  What – you say?  Now Queers4Gears has really lost it….. Brad all but cliched his first and his bosses first Sprint Cup Championship and you say, “poor Brad?”

You heard me and I stole the words right out of Brad’s mouth.  When you watch his ESPN “This is my Chase” spot he talks about having to prove his detractors wrong at every level as he rose to Sprint Cup.  He wanted to EARN this Championship, win this Championship and not give any room for someone to say, “the only reason he got the Cup was because (blank) (blanked).

Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

Brad will, in all likelihood win the Championship in Homestead – but not the way he wanted. “I felt like we had a race-winning car and I wanted to take the points lead by winning a race and not relying on a failure,” referring to Johnson’s crash.  There will be detractors who say Brad didn’t win but Jimmie lost the Championship.

One thing is for sure – all NACAR fans will be robbed of the “astonding 2-man battle in Homestead” that we have all been expecting.  Jeff Gordon saw to that.

It is hard to call one of the greatest drivers ever to grace our racetracks with his presence as a tool – but I’ll do it.  Jeff Gordon you tool!  Strip the title from Jimmie Johnson’s Kobalt tools ride – JG is the official tool of Hendrick Motorsports.

I don’t need to run down the play-by-play, you’ve all seen it a dozen times and tweeted about it more….. but more than one person made a bone headed move on Sunday – and one of them isn’t even a person.

First of all, NASCAR blew two huge calls.  The caution should have been thrown when Jeff Gordon first hit the wall and decorated the track with parts of his car.  Secondly, NASCAR should have thrown the caution on the last lap and not let them race back to the checkers.

While the second blown call didn’t affect who won the race – it did result in a ton of smashed up race cars.  Bottom line, it wasn’t safe – as the airborne car of Danica Patrick showed,  small track or not – the hits can be huge.

Much like the Governor of Arizona, who started the race, wagged her finger in our President’s face – I am gonna wag my finger in Jeff Gordon’s face.  What an armature move.   Even more troublesome, was the flippant answers Gordon gave to the media and tweeted to fans – lacking any form of apology or regret.

“It’s just things have gotten escalated over the year, and I’ve just had it,” Gordon said. “Clint’s 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 and was fed up with it and got him back.”

I am a grown man – and I’ve been watching NASCAR for a long time.  I understand tempers can flair – and even our sport’s heroes make boneheaded moves from time to time – BUT,  racing deals are racing deals – and what Jeff did to Clint ain’t no racing deal.

Gordon ignored the black flag issues by NASCAR,  tried to wreck Clint one, slowed down, continued to ignore the black flag and waited for Bowyer to come back around.  We cannot allow our drivers to choose which rules they want to follow.

Gordon was, for all purposes, not even supposed to be on the field – and he affected the outcome of a play.  It’s comparable to the Jets coach who came off the sideline and tripped a Dolphins player who was running down the field.  Both incidents rise above the level of poor sportsmanship.

NASCAR should park Jeff Gordon – Fair is Fair, when Carl sought revenge on Brad in Atlanta – I said NASCAR should park him.  When Kyle intentionally wrecked Hornaday in Texas –  I said NASCAR should park him.

I have no problem with men handling things in the garage with a little pushing and shovin… heck, let em all take off their watches.  But not on track!  It is simply too dangerous.  Revenge is a dish best not served dead.

Jeff Gordon ignored the refs – and affected a possible (slight, but possible) Championship run – and also destroyed the cars of two other drivers who had nothing to do with Clint and Jeff’s spat.   Comments from drivers around the garage expressed similar outrage.

“But sometimes that’s not how the sport works and you have to accept that. I’m more just disappointed in the quality of racing that we saw today. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous, and I was ashamed to be a part of it.” said Brad Keselowski.

Brad didn’t stop there, unleashing a profanity laced anwer in the Media Center “I spent a whole week being bashed by a half a dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I’m out of control and have a death wish, and then I see bullshit like that,” said Keselowski. “That’s fucking bullshit. That’s all you can call that. These guys just tried to kill each other. You race hard and I get called an asshole for racing hard and called with a death wish, and I see s–t like that, and it just pisses me off. … It’s just fucking ridiculous, and they should be ashamed. It’s embarrassing.”  Keselowski later apologized for the language – but not the sentiment.

Joey Logano also tweeted that Gordon was his hero growing up – but he lost a lot of respect for that day.

Clint Bowyer’s owner, Michael Waltrip said he had never seen anything like what Jeff did adding, “Cowardly, chicken move by someone that has raced for championships before and knows how important every position is.  They barely brushed on the back straightaway and he waits – he purposely waits – and tells everybody he’s waiting and wrecks our car and our hopes for racing for a championship.  I’m beside myself. I can’t believe that he would get involved in the championship battle.”

We won’t find out until Tuesday what penalties NASCAR will issue to Gordon for the wreck and/or Bowyer’s crew for the ensuing scuffle.  As I mentioned earlier – I think NASCAR needs to park the #24 for the season finale – not so much for the revenge – but for ignoring a black flag to seek it.

Rules and rules – it shouldn’t be left up to the driver to decide which rules and when he wants to obey them.

Instead of talking about Harvick’s win, or Brad’s regaining the points lead, or Jimmie’s tire failure – for years to come, talk of this race in Phoenix will be souly focused on the bone headed move made by Jeff Gordon and a pile of wrecked race cars at the start-finish line.

 

Kevin Harvick steals Phoenix win, as Brad Keselowski takes charge of title race

[ via NASCAR Wire Service - by Reid Spencer ]

Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Brad Keselowski has long since proven he’s an elite talent behind the wheel and a glib, if somewhat irreverent analyst in front of the microphone.

Now we can add prophecy to his list of accomplishments.

We can also add fisticuffs to the repertoires of the Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon crews, who brawled in the garage after Gordon wrecked Bowyer and dashed his championship hopes on the next to last scheduled lap.

Never mind that Kevin Harvick stole a race that Kyle Busch absolutely dominated, winning Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 in a green-white checkered-flag finish at Phoenix International Raceway.

Never mind that Harvick crossed the stripe as a wreck erupted behind him.

The real drama was deeper in the field, and earlier, as Keselowski moved tantalizingly close to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship after predicting last Sunday that bad luck might be on the horizon for five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. The prediction came true — in spades—in the form of a wreck on Lap 234.

Harvick took the checkered flag ahead of Denny Hamlin, who passed Busch after the final restart. Busch came home third in a race that went seven laps beyond its posted distance of 312 laps. Kasey Kahne ran fourth, followed by Ryan Newman and Keselowski, who took back the lead from Johnson and leads by 20 points with one race left in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Keselowski, however, was appropriately cautious when assessing his title chances.

“Certainly if you have the choice, you always want to be in the lead of the points, especially in the closing races, so I’m thankful for that,” said Keselowski, who can win the Cup championship outright with a finish of 15th or better in next Sunday’s season finale at Homestead.

“But I also know that the troubles that they had are the same troubles that we could have next week, and so you try not to take anything for granted. You try to just focus on what lies ahead, and we’ve got to do the best job we can at Homestead. That’s where my focus is.”

All other drivers were mathematically eliminated from title contention, including Bowyer, who was the victim of retaliation from Gordon for an earlier incident in which contact between their cars cut Gordon’s left front tire and sent him sliding into the Turn 3 wall.

Harvick’s victory came two days after ESPN.com reported he would leave Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2013 season, the last year on Harvick’s current contract. Clearly, the reported business dealings didn’t affect Harvick’s focus.

“There can be distractions,” said Harvick who broke a 44-race drought in winning for the 19th time in the Cup series. “There can be whatever happening around the race track, off the race track, but when you get in that garage and everybody is doing their jobs — I get in the car, he (owner Richard Childress) is up on the trailers — we’re all just racers in the end. We want to race cars, and it comes with a lot of media. It comes with a lot of things outside of the race track.

“But when we actually get to get into our element, we all do our jobs regardless, and we all don’t want to go out and embarrass ourselves and not run good. We want to be exactly where we are, right here, talking to you guys after the race and in Victory Lane and doing the things that make us all happy. It’s been a frustrating year, but two races to go, here we are.”

The biggest, most destructive bolt of ill-fortune in Johnson’s already storied career struck on Lap 234, when the right front tire on Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet exploded — the result of a melted bead (the edge of the tire that sits on the wheel) due to brake heat. Johnson smacked the Turn 4 wall.

Unlike at Kansas, where Johnson’s crew was able to repair a wrecked car without losing a lap, the 48 was damaged far beyond the healing power of a pit road band-aid. Johnson spent 38 laps in the garage before returning to competition just as David Ragan’s brush with the wall on Lap 273 caused the fifth caution of the race.

Johnson finished 32nd, his prospects for a sixth Cup title vastly diminished.

Busch led four times for 237 laps but surrendered the lead to Harvick after a restart on Lap 305 and never got it back.

“The guys gave me an awesome piece, and unfortunately there, I gave the race away,” Busch said. “I hate it for my guys, and they worked so hard and they dug hard this weekend, and obviously having a car that’s the class of the field, you expect to win and you’re supposed to win, but I guess I just didn’t know how to win it today.”

Happy Harvick to seek Happiness Elsewhere?

credit NASCAR

Silly Season 2014 has begun – 15 months early.

Today, Marty Smith at ESPN reported that Kevin Harvick will leave Richard Childress racing at the end of the 2013 season to drive for Stewart Hass Racing.

Harvick will join Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick as part of a 4 car stable for SHR.

When asked for comment, in typical “less words are better” fashion, Stewart said he had no comment adding when he had something to announce – he would let us know.

Harvick got his shot when Dale Earnhardt Jr. died in Daytona in 2001. Richard Childress changed the car number from #3 to #29. Placed in an impossible spot – it only took 3 weeks for Harvick to secure his own name by taking the 29 to victory lane.

It is no secret that Happy Harvick hasn’t been happy with the performance of the Childress cars.  It had been more than a year since Paul Menard won. Harvick hasn’t been to victory lane in over a year and an even longer 4 year drought for Jeff Burton.

Also, the writing on the wall is clear.  Austin and Ty Dillon are top performers in the Truck and Nationwide series and it’s only a matter of time until both of Pop-Pop’s grandkids are in RCR cars.  Any driver not related to the boss had to know what was coming….. so it makes sense that Harvick would look for greener pastures.

Then there’s Clint Bowyer – he moved to MWR last season and has been on a tear.  He is currently third in the standings behind Keselowski and Johnson and along with the #55 has made MWR the top Toyota team in the garage.

The ad execs at Budweiser must be scrambling.  It was a few years ago that Harvick took the red livery from Kasey Kahne when Bud moved to RCR.  Currently, they are watching their rival – Brad Keselowski’s Miller Light car compete for a Championship.  Will the beer giant stay with RCR and sponsor one of the Dillon boys once they turn 21 – or will they take their malty goodness elsewhere?

Check the reporting by Marty Smith for all the latest quotes……

Jimmie Johnson Outlasts Brad Keselowski for Texas Win

[ via NASCAR Wire Service - by Reid Spencer ]

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

The haymaker Jimmie Johnson delivered Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway turned out to be an eight-point swing.

Taking advantage of a late caution and four fresh tires to Brad Keselowski’s two, Johnson pulled away from Keselowski in a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win the AAA Texas 500 and tighten his grip on a possible sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Johnson finished .808 seconds ahead of Keselowski, the race runner-up, and increased his lead in the standings to from two points to seven. The victory was Johnson’s fifth of the season, his second at Texas and the 60th of his career. For the second straight week, Johnson won a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from the pole.

Kyle Busch ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer. Keselowski held the lead on two previous restarts — one a breathtaking side-by-side battle with the five-time champion — but Johnson pulled ahead in the one that counted.

As hard as the top two Chase drivers raced each other on Sunday, Johnson felt it took the level of competition between them to new heights.

“The way we raced this afternoon, this evening — that’s what’s different,” Johnson said. “That’s the first time that we’ve really engaged at that level and raced each other that hard.

“To his credit, he did a nice job of getting right to the edge, and we brought home race cars. We weren’t wadded up looking like a bunch of fools over there, handing the 5 (Kasey Kahne) and the 15 (Bowyer) a big gift.”

Had Keselowski held on to the lead for the final two laps, he would have been the Chase leader by one point.

Johnson, however, saved his best restart for the two-lap finish that sent the race one lap beyond its scheduled distance of 334 laps.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to execute every restart, and Jimmie did a great job on the last one,” Keselowski said. “I had to choose between wrecking him and winning the race, and it didn’t seem right to wreck him.

“Ran him hard, and we’re going to keep him honest. I know if we keep running like this that we won’t be beat.”
After NASCAR called the sixth caution of the race on lap 274, for debris on the backstretch, Keselowski entered the pits as the leader but dropped eight spots on the exchange of stops.

First, Keselowski slid to the front of his pit stall on the stop. Compounding the problem, the No. 10 Chevrolet of Danica Patrick, whose pit stall was immediately in front of Keselowski’s, stopped at the top of her box, blocking Keselowski’s exit.

By the time the No. 2 crew pushed the Blue Deuce back to give Keselowski clearance, he had lost the eight spots, as other lead-lap cars rolled past.

Keselowski spent the subsequent 30-lap green-flag run making up ground. On Lap 307, he passed Matt Kenseth for the fourth position, with Johnson running second behind Kyle Busch.

Three laps later, Marcos Ambrose’s accident in Turn 2 brought out caution No. 7, and Keselowski regained the lead with a two-tire stop. Busch was second off pit road, ahead of Johnson, who restarted third on Lap 316.

Keselowski surged to the lead, clearing Busch on the backstretch, and held the top spot until the caution on Lap 321 for an incident involving Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle in Turn 2 slowed the field. Kahne got the worst of the contact, lost a lap and saw his title hopes all but evaporate.

Keselowski and Johnson raced side-by-side and a hairbreadth from losing control after the restart on lap 327, with Keselowski pulling out to an eight-car-length lead, but Mark Martin’s wreck on the frontstretch two laps later set up the two-lap dash to the finish.

Busch, who had a ringside seat from his third-place finishing position, was impressed by the intensity of the racing in front of him.

“It was exciting,” he said. “Those guys up there, man, they were battling, and they battled hard, giving it everything they’ve got. That’s what they’ve got to do. (If) you’re going to win a championship in the Sprint Cup Series, that’s what you’re going to have to make of it.”