|Keselowski is on the brink|
The Penske Racing driver heads to Homestead Miami Speedway next week with a 20-point lead over five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, after Johnson finished 32nd after cutting a tire with 77 laps remaining, pounding the wall and spending approximately 30 laps in the garage making repairs.
While Johnson’s title hopes were on life support, Keselowski’s final few laps were also anything but ordinary. He dodged a major bullet when Jeff Gordon intentionally turned title contender Clint Bowyer into the fence coming to the white flag. Running just in front of Keselowski, innocent bystander Joey Logano clouted the wall along with Gordon and Bowyer, but the championship leader ducked low and missed the carnage by mere feet, keeping his title hopes intact.
On the resulting green-white-checkered flag restart, Keselowski was swept up in yet another multi-car crash triggered when NASCAR inexplicably failed to throw the caution flag for oil dropped by Danica Patrick’s wounded racer.
The new point leader actually passed two cars while crashing beneath the checkered flag, then climbed from his crumpled Dodge to criticize Gordon’s controversial takeout move. “There’s a difference between racing hard and what we saw today,” said Keselowski. “That was borderline ridiculous. I feel lucky to have made it through all the carnage.”
|Johnson stumbled badly Sunday|
After being summoned to a post-race meeting with NASCAR officials, Gordon said the incident resulted from a series of issues with Bowyer this season. “It has escalated over the course of the year,” he said. “He’s gotten into me numerous times and wrecked me, and he got into me again on the back straightaway. I’ve just had it.”
“It’s a shame,” said Bowyer after his own meeting with NASCAR. “The last person you want to get into anything with on the race track is Jeff Gordon. I didn’t even need to pass him. I was just riding around, biding my time and trying to stay in front of (Kasey Kahne) to put myself back in the championship chase.
“I barely touched him,” insisted Bowyer. “He slipped up and I drove under him. We barely even touched. He tried to turn me in Turn Three and missed, then I came around to Turn Four a lap later and he turned me (into the wall). For a five-time series champion and one of the most respected drivers in the history of the sport to do that was pretty ridiculous.”
Asked if he will attempt to retaliate next week at Homestead, Bowyer played it coy, saying, “We’ll just have to see.”
|Gordon got even, ending Bowyer's title hopes.|
An announcement on sanctions -- if any -- is not expected until Tuesday, but it is expected that multiple members of both the Gordon and Bowyer teams will get early starts on their offseason vacations after a roiling, garage-area donnybrook that left at last one member of Gordon's team bloodied. Gordon declined to speculate on whether NASCAR will suspend him from next weekend’s finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, saying, “They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, and I had to do what I had to do.”
Unlike Gordon, Keselowski knows exactly what's in store for him at Homestead next weekend. After coming to Phoenix in a seven-point championship hole, the driver of the Miller Lite “Blue Deuce” needs only a 15th-place finish to clinch his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. He can also claim the championship by finishing 16th and leading a lap, or by finishing 17th while leading the most laps.
A disappointed Johnson admitted his bid for a sixth championship is now “way, way out of our control. We still have to go to Homestead and race… but this is not the position we hoped to be in going to the final race.”
And despite tiptoeing through Sunday’s minefield Sunday, Keselowski said he is not ready to book the Champion’s Suite in Las Vegas yet.
“There are no guarantees,” he insisted. “We could go to Homestead and have the same thing happen to us.”
Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images For NASCAR