NASCAR Notebook: Keselowski survives scare in Daytona 500 practice
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Brad Keselowski survived a close call on Wednesday, one that almost made mincemeat of his Budweiser Shootout strategy.
Early in Wednesday's first practice session for Daytona 500 cars, Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge spun off the backstretch after contact from Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Toyota, as Keselowski was trying to make room for Ryan Newman's Chevrolet in front of him. After a high-speed slide through the infield grass, Keselowski brought his car to the garage.
Fortunately for the Penske Racing team, the damage was minimal. After the crew cleaned the grass and dirt from the undercarriage, Keselowski was back on the track, thankful that his efforts to save his carduring Saturday's Shootout had not gone for naught.
Both Keselowski and teammate AJ Allmendinger ran conservatively in the back of the pack on Saturday, after both lost their primary Shootout cars in a crash during practice on Friday.
"For us, we destroyed a good racecar in practice," Keselowski told the NASCAR Wire Service after the Shootout. "Obviously, that put us behind in our car rotation. It was very, very important that webrought a car home from the Shootout, between AJ and I. It's our backup car for the 500.
"So, basically, without having that car available, if something was to happen in the next few days, we'd be out of bullets. That's not good. So we had to make sure we had cars left at the end of (Saturday's) race. We were in kind of a unique position."
Keselowski came home unscathed and finished fourth in the Shootout. Allmendinger wasn't as fortunate, falling victim to a late wreck also involving Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Carl Edwards.
Keselowski and Allmendinger both hope to survive Thursday's Gatorade Duels 150-mile qualifying races with their primary cars intact, but in a worst-case scenario, Penske Racing has two cars ready to transport from North Carolina to Daytona.
EARNHARDT: 'I JUST WANT TO WIN'
Yes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would love to win the Daytona 500, break a 129-race drought and give team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th Sprint Cup victory.
More than winning the 500 specifically, however, Earnhardt simply wants to win a race -- any race.
"I just want to win -- anywhere," said Earnhardt, whose last victory came at Michigan in June 2008, during the Bush administration. "I just want to go ahead and get that done, so I can think about the next one and get the streak over with and get back to victory lane.
"We lost a million dollars by not being in the Winner's Circle program last year for the company (Hendrick Motorsports). They could use that money. There are just so many benefits to getting in the Winner's Circle. It'll help our team. It'll validate what me and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) have been trying to do the last couple years.
"It is the Daytona 500. It's the biggest race of the season. It would be pretty spectacular for me personally to win it, but it would do so many other things that I can't even list right now, for the team and the company going forward. It would be awesome."
KAHNE TO BACKUP CAR
Kasey Kahne's slide through the tri-oval grass in Wednesday's second session wasn't as benign as Keselowski's adventure on the backstretch in the first.
Kahne ripped the left-front fender off his No. 5 Chevrolet, forcing the team to go to the backup car. Consequently, Kahne will start from the rear of the field in Thursday's second Duel.
Only 25 teams participated in the second practice. Unwilling to risk damage to their cars before the Duels, 24 drivers stayed off the track during the 90-minute session.
KNAUS FACING NASCAR SANCTIONS
Life without Chad Knaus? Jimmie Johnson would prefer not to think about that prospect.
NASCAR president Mike Helton has made it abundantly clear that the No. 48 team will incur penalties for the outside-the-box modifications to the "C" posts of Johnson's Chevrolet. How severe those penalties will be remains to be seen, but a suspension to Johnson's crew chief is among the possible sanctions.
NASCAR confiscated the offending "C" posts, which connect the rear of the roof to the rear quarter panels, during Friday's opening-day inspection and required the team to replace them.
Though Johnson won two races, including the Daytona 500, during a four-race suspension Knaus served in 2006, he'd prefer to have hiscrew chief on the box.
"It's not good for any team that goes through it," Johnson said of the impending penalties. "It certainly puts a tough wrinkle on things, but at this point, I would be purely speculating.
"I'm hopeful and want to be optimistic that (suspension) wouldn't be the case, but I don't have any more news. So, we're going to have to wait until Tuesday (when penalty announcements are expected) to see where things shake out."
DIVERSITY AWARDS CELEBRATE 5th YEAR
At its fifth annual Diversity Affairs Awards Luncheon on Wednesday at the Daytona 500 Club, NASCAR recognized six participants and partners who have played significant roles in helping to promote a diverse environment throughout NASCAR racing.
Those recognized were: Walter Thomas III (Young Racer); Darrell Wallace Jr. (Drive for Diversity Participant); Perron Jones (Diversity Internship Program); Steve deSouza, Joe Gibbs Racing (Industry Ambassador);International Speedway Corporation (NASCAR Partner); and Hampton University(Educational Institution).