Keselowski wins inaugural Nationwide race at Indy
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
The inaugural Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway occurred before mostly empty grandstands, but there were some compelling storylines that played out during the Indiana 250.
Many in the sport are lamenting the moving of the Nationwide race from nearby Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park), where the race regularly drew a packed house, although the grandstands there are much smaller.
But as Indiana 250 winner Brad Keselowski pointed out, racing and winning at the Brickyard is something to cherish.
“The Brickyard means so much to all of us as race car drivers, and to the sport in general,” he said. “It transcends three different forms of auto racing, whether it’s IndyCar in the United States, F1 and their history here, and then, obviously, with stock cars and their initial time here to the current date, from ’94 on …
“I’m glad to be some small part of that with winning the inaugural Nationwide race.”
Keselowski’s victory gave his car owner Roger Penske his first NASCAR victory at a track where he’s one of the dominant car owners of all time with 15 victories in the Indianapolis 500.
The race had moments of drama, two of which involved controversial starts.
On the initial start, Kyle Busch appeared to get the jump on pole-sitter Kasey Kahne but was not penalized.
Then, late in the race, Elliott Sadler lost his chance to win – and a good many points – when he was penalized for jumping a restart.
Sadler, who finished 15th, told reporters afterward that he thought NASCAR erred in penalizing him, and he told NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, just that after the race.
“Robin Pemberton just told me, right out of his mouth, I did not jump the start,” he said. “This is a very tough penalty. Very hard to swallow at the inaugural race here at Indy as I race to win.’’
Sadler remains atop the Nationwide standings, but his lead dropped from 11 points to just one over second-place Austin Dillon.
Dillon’s younger brother Ty Dillon, a Camping World Truck Series rookie, also ran the Nationwide race at the Brickyard. He ran near the front for most of the race and finished an impressive third.
“Just coming here, if you would have given me a top 10, I would have been ecstatic,” he said. “I kind of learned a little bit about myself this week. I did this last year with the Truck Series, and just went into those last three races in the Truck Series last year with an open attitude, just wanting to have fun and drive a race car. I had no pressure with the points.
“And then the same thing this year with no pressure with the points, just wanted to have fun here at a historic track like Indy. It made me a better driver and opened my mind more to adjust in the race car
“I think this weekend did a lot for me in confidence and how I’m going to approach the Camping World Truck Series from this point on.”
There was plenty of pre-race hype over Danica Patrick’s return to the Brickyard, where she had some of her best runs in the IndyCar Series, but she wasn’t much of a factor in the Nationwide race.
Her race ended early after contact with Reed Sorenson on Lap 39.
“I think I just tapped [Sorenson] a little bit, and when I did, he slid sideways,” Patrick said. “I tried to go around him and didn’t quite get by him and spun around, and, unfortunately, that was it. I am sorry if I did anything to affect his day, but I didn’t mean to.”
She finished 35th and dropped to 10th in the Nationwide standings, 252 points out of the lead.
Money-wise, Michael Annett was the big winner on Saturday at Indianapolis. His sixth-place finish earned him a $100,000 bonus from series sponsor Nationwide in the Dash 4 Cash program that rewards Nationwide Series regulars in select races.
Annett said he struggled early in his first race on the historic track but was able to gain speed at the end.
“It’s really, really tough,” he said. “There are so many chances to screw up here. It is really hard to put together a whole lap, and it took me till about Lap 20 to 30 to really start doing that and then start being able to pull it off and figure out what I need to do to pass cars, which is the hardest thing to do here.
“I put a lot of notes in the book for late in the race, and we used it and put ourselves in a position to get this check.”