Taking advantage of a NASCAR penalty to Elliott Sadler, Brad Keselowski cruised to victory in Saturday’s Indy 250, the inaugural appearance for NASCAR’s Nationwide Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Keselowski beat Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. to the finish line by 3.3 seconds after NASCAR penalized points leader Sadler for jumping the last restart of the race on Lap 83, after Kyle Busch’s spin in Turn 1 brought out the fifth caution on Lap 79.
Sadler, who got a push into the lead from Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon approaching the stripe, asserted that race leader Keselowski had spun his tires coming to green.
“It’s so wrong to penalize me for a mistake they made,” Sadler radioed to his crew. “NASCAR just took the championship away from me. They just took the damn championship right out of our hands.”
Reluctantly, Sadler served a pass-through penalty on Lap 89 and dropped behind the other lead-lap cars. Charging through traffic, Sadler finished 15th to minimize the damage to his points lead, which shrank to one point over Dillon, who finished fifth.
Ty Dillon, Austin’s brother, ran third, followed by Denny Hamlin. Michael Annett finished sixth and pocketed $100,000 from Nationwide’s Dash 4 Cash program. Annett, Hornish, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (ninth Saturday) earned Dash 4 Cash eligibility for next week’s race at Iowa.
Thanks to Sadler’s misfortune, Keselowski became the first Nationwide winner at the big track.
“I’ve been watching races here since I was a kid in Michigan,” Keselowski said. “Everybody knows how special Indy is, and any win you can have here, whether it’s the (Indianapolis) 500 or the Brickyard here (Sunday), the first Nationwide race — every race is special.
“This is the 100th win for (owner) Roger Penske in NASCAR, so that’s really special for him. I’m glad to be able to be the guy that delivered.”
If Hornish had to finish second, there was consolation in being beaten by a teammate — but only so much.
“There’s always next week, but there’ll never be another inaugural Nationwide race at Indy,” said Hornish, a former winner of the Indy 500 during his tenure in open-wheel racing.
Contact from Danica Patrick’s Chevrolet sent Reed Sorenson spinning on Lap 39. Sorenson slid sideways, blocking the track in front of Patrick, who T-boned the unfortunate Ford. Patrick’s car was demolished, and the driver who posted six top-10 finishes in seven IndyCar starts exited the Nationwide event in 35th place.
“It’s just unfortunate for our day — it’s a big race, a big weekend,” Patrick said. “We were just trying to pick ’em off one by one (Patrick was running 20th at the time). . . . We just got shuffled back on that restart there (on Lap 22), picked the wrong line and got shuffled back.
“I got into the center of the corner, I got pretty close, and I might have tapped him — I’m not sure. He was slowing it down quite a bit, so I didn’t mean to take him out. . . . I was trying to go around him, and when I went around him, I think he hooked right, maybe, or something like that. Just a bummer. There was plenty racing left to work with, but what can you do?”