Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Battle for the Lead Ends Disastrous for Team Penske at Michigan

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

For the first time in his entire NASCAR Cup Series career, Brad Keselowski finished last following a Lap 96 tangle with teammate Ryan Blaney in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

During the final stage, Keselowski got a push from Kevin Harvick going into Turn 1, allowing him to get by Denny Hamlin for the runner-up spot. This allowed Keselowski to quickly gain ground on his Team Penske teammate, who was leading the 156-lap event.

Keselowski was on the bottom groove before his No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang snapped and collided with Blaney’s No. 12 Menards/Knauf Mustang, sending both competitors into the Turn 1 wall.

The only major accident of the race resulted in a third caution period and handing the lead to Denny Hamlin, who ultimately finished second behind Harvick. Meanwhile, Blaney and Keselowski ended up as the bottom two finishers, credited with a 38th and 39th result respectively.

Aside from Austin Cindric capturing his fourth Xfinity Series win out of the last five races at Road America Saturday, it has been a real sour week for Roger Penske. Not only he had to disallow crowds attending this month’s Indianapolis 500 this past Tuesday, the damage bill will also rack up following his top-two cars wrecked while racing for the lead.

Right away, Keselowski held himself accountable for their exit as he had the longest streak among active drivers to have never finished last until his 399th Cup start Sunday.

“I just lost it. It’s my fault. I feel really bad for my teammate, Ryan Blaney. He didn’t deserve that,” said Keselowski, who has yet to win at his home track.

“I just came off of turn four and (Harvick) was behind me and he gave me a push and I swear I went into the corner like 20 miles an hour faster than I had been all day and got past (Hamlin) and I went to get underneath the 12 and I just slipped.

“I lost the back a little bit and when I went to collect it he was there and I wiped him out and myself out, so I feel terrible for everyone at Team Penske and especially Ryan Blaney. Gosh, he didn’t deserve that. I should have whoa’d way up. I had been running wide-open on the bottom all day and thought I could do it again, but with that big push I overestimated the grip and ruined our day.”

Blaney commented that Keselowski had a run but not enough like he’d hoped as he alluded to with his post-crash comments. Thus, Blaney knew the inevitable of Keselowski getting loose.

“It’s just unfortunate for the whole Penske organization. We had two fast cars battling for the lead and it just stinks that happened,” said Blaney. “We were so fast. We had to battle back from having to pit again and got to 10th for the second stage and then got the lead. I was like, ‘All right, we can finally go back at it,’ and just got together there.”

Blaney added that it’s a simple racing mistake on Keselowski’s end as they’ll move on for the wild unknown known as the Go Bowling 235 at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course August 16 (3:00 p.m. EST on NBC).

“It’s not gonna carry over. Things happen. Mistakes happen,” said Blaney. “It’s just a shame both of us got taken out.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.