As he chased Joey Logano around Texas Motor Speedway, more than a few people wondered if Brad Keselowski was letting off the gas just a little bit to help his teammate to a win.
A flurry of late activity cleared Keselowski of any potential wrongdoing.
As Logano closed in on the white flag that would have wrapped up the win, a late caution sent the field to pit road. Keselowski was penalized for speeding — he was 0.8 mph over in one of the zones on pit road — and it proved he was doing everything in his power to win Monday’s race.
“I definitely wasn’t (laying back),” Keselowski said. “I was 105 percent, so that’s why got I a speeding penalty. I broke the rule the other way.”
NASCAR last September demanded drivers give 100 percent at all times in a mandate to prevent them from aiding teammates. The penalty Keselowski had to serve contributed to his 15th-place finish, and Logano went on to win his first race of the season.
“We’re in it for wins. We’re not in it for finishing second. Second or 15th is the same to us,” Keselowski said. “I sped and ended up 15th. It had to be really close. If it would have worked out, I might have been able to win the race from it. It’s just part of racing.”
Now no one can accuse Team Penske of playing unfairly, and both drivers have a clear conscious as they prepare for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Keselowski got his win at Las Vegas in March, and under NASCAR’s new win-and-you’re-in format, Team Penske should be assured of two spots in the 16-driver Chase field.
“It’s absolutely huge,” Keselowski said. “We haven’t burned any of our team tests, and now that we’ve got both cars in the Chase, we can just burn through those on the Chase tracks. That’s a pretty healthy advantage.”
Penske management had been plotting testing strategy prior to Monday’s race, and wondered if the organization needed to go somewhere where Logano runs well in order to give him a strong chance at a victory. Now that he’s got a win, they can test only at tracks that are in the 10-race Chase.
“Now that we’re in the Chase we can use these tests a little differently than what we were thinking,” Logano said.
NO VIP: Chase Elliott became the second youngest winner in Nationwide Series history at Texas Motor Speedway, then had to return home to Georgia to go back to school.
There was no special treatment for Elliott, who is wrapping up his senior year of high school at Kings Ridge Christian School in Atlanta.
“It was a typical Monday morning,” Elliott said. “Nobody likes Mondays, whether you’re in school or having to go to work.”
Ellliott, who won Friday night in his sixth career start, is roughly four months older than Joey Logano was when he won his first career Nationwide race in 2008 at 18 years and 21 days.
The victory officially announced the arrival of the son of 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott, who won the Most Popular Driver award a record 16 times before he removed his name from the ballot. As Chase Elliott celebrated the win, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson visited him in Victory Lane. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick stopped by his car to offer congratulations, and Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin tweeted to him.
“Those guys just taking a couple seconds to shake my hand along the way, that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced ever,” Elliott said. “That was just really, really cool to have those guys, their support.”
ANDRETTI ADDITION: Roger Griffiths, who recently left his position as technical director for Honda Performance Development, has joined Andretti Autosport as the new director of motorsport development.
Griffiths will work with all areas of Andretti racing competition, including the IndyCar Series, its ladder system, Formula E and Rallycross.
“I’m very excited to have Roger join the team,” said Andretti. “A man with his knowledge, talent and experience will be a huge addition for not just Andretti Autosport, but also for (Rallycross) and Andretti Formula E.”
Griffiths has worked in many different series, including Formula 1, IndyCar, American Le Mans Series, European Le Mans Series and Super Touring Cars.
BASS PRO: Bass Pro Shops will help commemorate the return of the No. 3 to the Sprint Cup Series by sponsoring Austin Dillon at Talladega and Daytona this season.
The nation’s No. 1 outdoor retail leader first began its association with Richard Childress Racing and the No. 3 Cup car in 1998 as an associate sponsor of the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet immortalized by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.
Bass Pro first partnered with Dillon in 2010 in the Truck Series, and was his sponsor when he won the championship the next season. The company was with Dillon in the Nationwide Series, and will now sponsor the two races in Sprint Cup with the No. 3.
Bass Pro currently sponsors Ty Dillon in the Nationwide Series.