Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sports

Brad Keselowski sweeps weekend at New Hampshire

LOUDON, N.H. — Brad Keselowski hopped out of his car and grabbed an oversized broom to give a playful sweep of all the confetti already collected around his Ford.

He then truly savored his victory, snagging a New England lobster and raising it in triumph.

Keselowski survived without a cut, splinter or pinch. He didn't even fumble his championship crustacean. This time his victory celebration was as perfect as his performance on the track.

He completed a flawless weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and won Sunday's Camping World 301 under a green-white checkered finish. Keselowski followed Saturday's Nationwide series victory with his first Sprint Cup win at New Hampshire, dominating in the No. 2 Ford for his third victory of the season.

The 2012 Sprint Cup champion is tied with Jimmie Johnson for the series lead in wins.

"This was just such a phenomenal weekend, and these don't happen that often," he said.

Keselowski had been in a slump with, of all things, his Victory Lane fun.

He needed four stitches to close a wound during his celebration June 28 at Kentucky. He tried to open a bottle of champagne by hitting it against a podium, and the bottle broke and cut his hand.

Then Saturday, Keselowski dropped the American flag out of his No. 22 Ford; it was retrieved by an official to let the frivolity continue.

He joked he brought Kevlar-reinforced gloves that were touted as cut-proof.

Good thing. The New Hampshire winner traditionally receives a live lobster in Victory Lane.

"Apparently, I've got to win more and I'll get better at it," he said. "I think everybody got to hold the lobster. We're looking forward to eating the lobster later this week. I hear they're going to overnight the meat."

He'll get a taste of Loudon the Lobster — yes, that's its name — a 20-pounder caught off the coast of New Bedford, Mass.

Keselowski keeps piling up wins and has proved he might be even better than during his championship run.

"I think in a lot of ways, we're stronger than that," he said. "I don't think we've had this much speed before."

After the last caution, with four laps left, Keselowski pulled away on the final restart to become the first driver to sweep the weekend in track history. He had the fastest car most of the weekend, even topping the charts in both Sprint Cup practices on Saturday.

"You can't have a great car if you don't have the best driver," team owner Roger Penske said. "I can tell you today, there was nobody that could beat him."

Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. clinched spots in the Chase for the Championship, provided they attempt to qualify for the final seven races before the cutoff.

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch was second. Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman completed the top five.

Busch said the No. 18 Toyota never had enough for a serious challenge.

"I don't think anybody did," he said.

Keselowski led 138 of 305 laps (four more than the scheduled 301) and helped Ford to its fourth straight win. Ford last won four consecutive Sprint Cup races in 2001.

Johnson, the six-time NASCAR champion, was knocked out early after two rear left tire issues. The first time the tire was flat; the second time, the tire exploded and the No. 48 Chevrolet slammed the fence. He finished 42nd.

Goodyear said the tires weren't the problem.

"The tires failed in a manner consistent of low inflation pressure," Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of racing, said.

But Johnson disagreed.

"We'll try to dig in it and learn more, but I can promise you one thing, it wasn't the tire pressure," Johnson told TNT. "I've been out here two days running around and haven't had a flat."

The race was the last one carried by the Turner Sports networks, which have been covering NASCAR for 32 years. NASCAR's multiyear broadcasting deal with Fox and NBC kicks in next year.

 
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Published: 06/23/18