Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CONCORD, NC – Brad Keselowski wasn’t worried about fatigue in NASCAR’s longest race—even though he had just run 300 miles in surprisingly hot and humid conditions the day before the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In conditions he described as “smoking,” Keselowski won Saturday’s Alsco 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series event at the 1.5-mile track. Keselowski certainly felt the heat in his car, but he had a plan for recovery in plenty of time for Sunday’s marquee event.
“Drink and eat,” Keselowski said. “That’s the game. I feel good about it. I’ve had a couple really good runs in the 600. We’ve had some bad runs in the 600. I don’t feel any of them I’ve fallen out of the seat, so it’s going to be good.”
Though temperatures certainly weren’t the hottest on record at Charlotte, a rainstorm that interrupted the race for just over an hour was a contributing factor to Keselowski’s discomfort.
“This is the hottest I think I’ve driven,” he said. “It’s not all that hot outside, but I think a lot of factors play into it, with the rain and the cars soaking up some of the rain.
“The first few laps on the restart (after the rain delay), there was water coming out of the roll bars, and I’m sure that was going right down on the exhaust and putting together a nice steam bath. But it’s part of the challenge and kind of what you have to live through.”
Keselowski qualified fifth for Sunday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, and he picked up an extra incentive to drive his No. 2 Ford to victory a few hours before the start. Will Power gave team owner Roger Penske his 17th Indianapolis 500 win, putting Keselowski in position for a possible daily double for The Captain.
KAZ GRALA EXCELS IN DEBUT WITH NEW NASCAR XFINITY TEAM
Life has been moving at warp speed for NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Kaz Grala, who left his ride with JGL Racing after the May 5 race at Dover and had a new entry—co-owned by his father, Darius Grala, Tony Eury Jr. and Jeff Fultz—in time to race in the next Xfinity event, the Alsco 300 on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Sporting an eye-catching throwback paint scheme featuring the white No. 61 in a dark circle, Grala piloted his new Fury Race Cars Ford to a 10-place finish in the team’s debut.
Admittedly, Grala had to be conservative in practice and qualifying, because the team hadn’t had time to prepare a backup car. The race, on the other hand, was another matter.
“Even qualifying, I had to be a little bit careful, but in the race absolutely not,” Grala said. “I was aggressive as much as I could be and really going for it, because I knew these guys (the team) deserved a good one. I didn’t want to be the reason they didn’t get it, so I was driving my guts out there.
“And if you ask them, I think I asked for like six different water bottles during that race, because I literally was leaving nothing on the table, but that’s the way you have to race in the XFINITY (Series) here. Everyone is just too freaking good to not go all-out every single lap, so I’m really proud of everybody. I can’t thank everyone enough. This is a dream come true for me.”
JACK ROUSH HUSTLED TO NASCAR HALL OF FAME FOR VOTING ANNOUNCEMENT
Team owner Jack Roush was in a meeting at the Roush Fenway Racing headquarters in Concord, N.C., with no plans to attend the NASCAR Hall of Fame election announcement last Wednesday afternoon.
That changed in a hurry.
“At about 5:05 or 5:07, someone slipped in the door and said, ‘Jack, there’s a very good chance you’re going to be inducted. You may want to go down there,’” Roush said on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Kevin Woods (RFR’s vice president of marketing operations and communications) was with me, and he earned his stripes with me—he could drive a taxi for me in New York City or wherever he’d like—and about 15 minutes later, we were in the Hall of Fame Auditorium there.”
Roush arrived just in time to hear NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France announce Jeff Gordon as the first member of the Class of 2019. Roush was next.
“It’s easily the biggest honor of my stock car racing career,” Roush said. “I’m deeply moved and really humbled by being placed in the presence of the 45 that preceded me, as well as the four others that are being inducted at the same time.”
Roush will enter the Hall on Feb. 1, 2019, along with Gordon, Roger Penske, Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki.