SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Roger Penske finally won his first NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and he wasn’t there to go to victory lane.
Brad Keselowski’s victory in the inaugural Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race came at the track where Penske has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 15 times as a team owner.
But in 17 previous Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis none of Penske’s stock car drivers have ever won the prestigious event.
Put Keselowski’s name in the record book as the first Nationwide Series winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the driver that gave Penske his first NASCAR victory at this fabled facility.
“You’re damn right I’m going to tease him for not being here today,” Keselowski said. “Of his 16 wins at Indianapolis I got his only win he is not here for.
“It’s just a special day. The Brickyard means so much to all of us as race car drivers in general, whether it’s IndyCar in the United States, Formula One and their history here and then obviously with stock cars and their initial time here to the current date. It transcends into a special victory and a special place to race.”
Keselowski benefitted on a late-race restart on Lap 83 of the 100-laps race when he spun the tires on his Dodge and teammate Sam Hornish, Jr. gave him a push. It was more than Keselowski’s Dodge could handle as the rear tires spun and the back of the car jacked up off the ground and Elliott Sadler’s Chevrolet took off.
NASCAR officials ruled Sadler took off before hitting the restart zone and black-flagged the leader. Sadler objected over the radio that he didn’t do anything wrong and stayed on the race course.
He finally served the drive-through penalty and went on to finish 15th.
Sadler believes he got jobbed and his finish, combined with Nationwide Series rookie Austin Dillon’s fifth-place finish cut Sadler’s Nationwide Series lead to just one point.
“I did not jump the start,” Sadler said. “The video clearly shows (Keselowski) going first, beating me to the restart line, (Sam Hornish) then hitting (Keselowski), getting him really loose and spinning his tires,” Sadler said. “This is very hard to swallow. This was our race to win.”
Keselowski was still trying to process all that happened on that restart and how it impacted the outcome.
“It happened really fast and I don’t have a complete picture of when it happened but I got a push from Sam and it was a little more than I could take and I wasn’t going full throttle but I wasn’t in the zone when Elliott Sadler took off,” Keselowski said. “I think NASCAR has made it a point to say they are not going to measure down to the millimeter who gets beat to the restart zone; they just want it to all be fair. NASCAR saw something they didn’t like and they made the call.”
It was Keselowski’s 20th victory in 183 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts and his third victory and 10th top-10 finish in 2012.
Hornish finished second in a Dodge followed by rookie driver Ty Dillon’s Chevrolet. Denny Hamlin’s Toyota was fourth with Austin Dillon fifth.
Danica Patrick, who was making her return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in her NASCAR career after seen starts in the Indianapolis 500, crashed in Turn 2 after Reed Sorenson’s Ford spun out in the first turn on Lap 39.
She tried to avoid the car and drove high but when Sorenson’s car drifted back up the track Patrick’s Chevrolet crashed into the wall, ending her race with a 35th-place finish.
“It was pretty tight to start the race off and my crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., is a pretty smart guy and took a pretty big swing at it on the first stop,” Patrick explained. “The car was definitely better and we were working our way through after that rough restart, picking the wrong long and so it took us a little while. But we were picking them off one by one and got up to the 98 (Sorenson) and into Turn 1 and he slowed down quite a bit and I was pretty hard on the brakes. I think I just tapped him a little bit and when I did he slide sideways. I tried to go around him and didn’t quite get by him and spun around and unfortunately that was it.”
Kyle Busch led three times for 51 laps in the race but his bid for victory ended when he was tapped by Hornish and spun out in turn two. Busch would finish 22nd.
Keselowski led twice for 33 laps including the final 29. There were nine lead changes among six drivers and five cautions for 24 laps. Keselowski beat Hornish to the line by 3.304 seconds.
“I’ve been watching races here since I was a kid in Michigan,” Keselowski said. “Everybody knows how special Indy is and any win that you can have here, whether it’s the Indy 500 or the Brickyard here tomorrow, the first Nationwide race, every race is special. This is the 100th win for Roger Penske in NASCAR so I’m sure that is really special for him. I’m glad to be able to be that guy that delivered.”
If not Keselowski, then Hornish was in prime position to get his second win at Indianapolis after the Nationwide Series regular gave Penske a win in the 2006 Indianapolis 500.
“Being able to come here with a 1-2 for Penske Racing was great,” Hornish said. “I just with the Captain was here to enjoy it with us but the guys at Penske Racing did a wonderful job. They brought two new cars here for Brad and I, put a lot of work into this race and to be able to get a 1-2 finish feels pretty good.
“I guess if there is a guy that I can handle losing to it’s Brad. But I want to win. To be that close would have been real nice to be able to do that. There is always next week but there is never a chance to win the Inaugural Nationwide race again. If I seem a little bit disappointed I guess that is probably why.”
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