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Keselowski, Earnhardt have extra incentive for race at MIS

06/09/2014, 12:06am EDT
By RACHEL LENZI BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Keselowski, Earnhardt have extra incentive for MIS

Brad Keselowski (2) races to a second-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400. ASSOCIATED PRESS

With less than 10 laps left in the Pocono 400 on Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Brad Keselowski, the Rochester Hills, Mich., native, reported that he had debris on the grille of his No. 2 Ford Fusion. He continued to drive, despite repeatedly telling his crew chief that his engine was getting hot.

Keselowski chose to drop back in an attempt to clear the debris, a move that cost him.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., took the lead with five laps left and earned his second NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the season.

“This one is kind of on me and the circumstances,” said Keselowski, who led 95 laps at the “Tricky Triangle” in Long Pond, Pa. “I was trying to do something to help my car out and I knew it was going to break and I was going to get passed, so I was trying to make whatever move I could do to help clean it off.

“I’m not sure I did enough to make a difference.”

Keselowski aims for his second NASCAR Sprint Cup win this season when he travels this week to Michigan International Speedway.

The 2½-mile superspeedway hosts this weekend's Quicken Loans 400, the marquee event in a weekend of auto racing at the Brooklyn, Mich. track, which is less than 90 miles away from Keselowski's hometown.

MIS will host the Michigan ARCA 200 on Friday, the Nationwide Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 on Saturday, and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday.

Defiance native Sam Hornish, Jr., will drive the No. 20 SunEnergy 1 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in Saturday’s race.

Hornish, Jr., is driving a partial Nationwide schedule this season and has made three starts, including a win May 18 at Iowa Speedway.

Now, Earnhardt returns to Michigan a victor. Earnhardt ended a five-year winless stretch when he won the 2012 Quicken Loans 400, but has finished in the top five only once in the three Sprint Cup races at MIS since. Now, he has a chance to win back-to-back races in a season when he arrives this week at MIS.

“That would be awesome,” said Earnhardt, who won Sunday despite leading only 11 laps. “That's a really good feeling. Puts you right on top of the world.

“A win gives you a lot of confidence, but you know and realize how difficult those are to come by and how competitive this garage is, but man, when you win two in a row, man, that sets you apart a bit from your competition.”

ON TV: WTVG (ABC-13) will broadcast “Thunder In The Hills” at 7 p.m. Friday, a preview of the weekend’s races at MIS, and will co-sponsor with WJRT (ABC-12 in Flint/​Saginaw, Mich.) the No. 23 Toyota in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, driven by Alex Bowman.

TNT will televise Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, while Fox Sports 1 will broadcast Friday’s Michigan ARCA 200, and ESPN will broadcast Saturday’s Nationwide Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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