Keselowski Delivers Brickyard 400 For Penske
by Tom Jensen September 07, 2020
This week in NASCAR history, Brad Keselowski gave Roger Penske one of the few things he didn’t have: a Brickyard 400 trophy
September 10, 2018:
In auto racing as in life, not all history is buried deep in the past. Historical moments can happen anytime and anywhere.
Such is the case with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the world’s oldest and most historically significant auto racing venues.
Heading into the 2018 season Hall of Famer Roger Penske (2019) had won the Indianapolis 500 a record 16 times, but was 0-for-24 in the Brickyard 400, NASCAR’s annual premier series at the fabled Indiana track.
In May of 2018, Will Power gave Team Penske its 17th Indy 500 victory, while the stock-car side of the Penske operation was still hunting its first Brickyard 400 trophy.
Fortunately for Penske, he had a driver in Brad Keselowski who had already made a considerable amount of history with “The Captain,” giving the team owner his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 2010 and his first premier series title two years later.
For the 2018 Brickyard 400, Keselowski did not come into the race as the favorite and, in fact, did not have a dominant car, leading only 9 of 160 laps, while five other drivers led more laps than he did.
But Keselowski kept the No. 2 Team Penske Ford in contention all day long, and when the time came, he was ready.
A late-race caution for a crash between Landon Cassill and Jeffrey Earnhardt set up a three-lap shootout for the race victory. Denny Hamlin led when the green flag flew on Lap 158, but Keselowski quickly began to apply pressure. On the penultimate lap, the two made contact on the backstretch, trading paint and trading the lead before Keselowski got underneath Hamlin in Turn 4 to make what turned out to be the race-winning pass. Hamlin wound up third as he was passed on the last lap by his teammate, Erik Jones.
After the race, Keselowski was keenly aware of the historical significance of the victory. “With Roger Penske getting his first Cup win here and myself getting the first Cup win here, at such a historic racetrack that means so much to all of motorsports,” he said. “So for us to have our name on that win list sure does mean a lot to me. I can tell you that.”
Ironically, Penske was not in attendance for the big victory. “He (Penske) unfortunately couldn't be here today,” said Keselowski. “He's on a secret mission somewhere. If you know Roger Penske that makes perfect sense.”
Since that time, Penske was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2019, his team won its 18th Indy 500 in May 2019 and in November, it was announced that Penske was buying Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series.
The rest of This Week in NASCAR History:
September 7, 1953
It took 5 hours, 23 minutes and 19 seconds, but in 1953, Hall of Famer Buck Baker (2013) scored the first of his three victories in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Driving an Oldsmobile owned by Bob Griffin, Baker finished 3 laps ahead of second place Fonty Flock, earning $6,285 for winning what then was NASCAR’s richest race. The total purse for the Southern 500 was $24,430, making it the only one of 37 races on the schedule that paid out more than $15,000.
September 8, 2019
Driving a Ford Mustang co-owned by his close friend and Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (2020), Kevin Harvick qualified on the pole and then led 118 of 160 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to win the prestigious Brickyard 400 for a second time. In the process, Harvick held off runner-up Joey Logano and Bubba Wallace, as the top 12 finishers all drove for teams founded by and/or owned by Hall of Famers.
September 9, 1966
The Hall of Fame duo of driver David Pearson (2011) and car owner Cotton Owens (2013) took home the $1,000 winner’s share of the purse at Hickory (North Carolina) Speedway, where Pearson lapped the field to win the Buddy Shuman 250. The victory was one of 15 Pearson and Owens earned in 1966, as Pearson went on to win his first of three premier series championships and the only one driving Dodges for fellow South Carolinian Owens.
September 11, 1999
The first of Hall of Famer Tony Stewart’s (2020) 49 career premier series victories came at Richmond International Raceway (now Richmond Raceway) in the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400. Driving a Pontiac owned by fellow Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs (2020), Stewart had a dominating night at the 0.75-mile, D-shaped Richmond track, where he led 333 of 400 laps to win $135,160 for himself and the team. Stewart would go on to win three of the 10 races of the season to finish fourth in points and win Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
September 12, 1976
The cream rose to the top at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway (now Richmond Raceway) where the top five finishers in the Capital City 400 were all drivers who would go on to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Race-winner Cale Yarborough (2012) led 215 of 400 laps in a Chevrolet fielded by Hall of Famer Junior Johnson. Finishing second through fifth, respectively, were Bobby Allison (2011), Richard Petty (2010), Darrell Waltrip (2012) and Buddy Baker (2020). The victory paid $10,300.
September 13, 1981
The 20th of Hall of Famer Benny Parsons’ (2017) 21 career NASCAR premier series victories came in the Wrangler Sanfor-Set 400 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway (now Richmond Raceway). Driving the No. 15 Ford owned by fellow Hall of Famer Bud Moore (2011), Parsons led 121 of 400 laps, making the race-winning pass of Bobby Allison (2011) with 25 laps to go. For their efforts. Parsons and Moore took home $18,525.