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Thursday, November 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Auto racing roundup: Brad Keselowski wins NASCAR playoff opener, gets 500th win for Roger Penske

Brendon Gaughan, right, presents Brad Keselowski with a trophy following a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken / Associated Press)
Brendon Gaughan, right, presents Brad Keselowski with a trophy following a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken / Associated Press)
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – Brad Keselowski raced to his third consecutive NASCAR Cup victory Sunday, persevering through a wreck-filled Sunday afternoon and roaring away from the field in overtime to claim the playoff opener.

Keselowski secured team owner Roger Penske’s 500th victory across all competitions with a resourceful performance amid trying circumstances and 99-degree Las Vegas heat.

Kyle Larson was second, and defending Cup series champion Martin Truex Jr. third after a stop-and-start finish to a race that featured 12 cautions.

“To start off the playoffs with a win, that’s really strong, let alone three in a row,” Keselowski said. “We nailed the pit stops and the restarts when it counted, and we were strong.”

Eight of the 16 playoff drivers had various problems in the opener of the 10-race postseason. Four playoff drivers failed to finish – including co-leader Kevin Harvick, who wrecked with 120 laps to go when he blew his right front tire.

Michael McDowell and Kurt Busch wrecked with just two laps to go, forcing a red-flag stop and overtime. After the drivers re-fired their engines for the two-lap shootout, nobody could keep up with Keselowski’s Team Penske Ford.

“We did it, boss!” Keselowski shouted. “That’s quite a number, right? It’s really great to be a part of that, and to get the last one to get us there, that’s pretty great.”

Penske was not in attendance for his landmark victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, instead watching from Sonoma at the IndyCar season finale. He formed Team Penske in 1966, and it has fielded 50 winning drivers across 14 race series during the ensuing 52 years.

Keselowski won at Darlington and the Brickyard in consecutive weeks before Vegas. His late surge has added some intrigue into a NASCAR season dominated by the Big Three of Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch, who finished seventh in Vegas even after skidding and plowing through the infield grass with 35 laps to go.

Joey Logano finished fourth, and Ryan Blaney was fifth.

Truex moved into the overall points lead over Busch and Keselowski, who leapfrogged Harvick.

IndyCar

Scott Dixon used a steady Sunday drive to win his fifth IndyCar championship with ease.

Dixon needed an uneventful finale at Sonoma (California) Raceway to lock up the title and got it on the opening lap of the race. Alexander Rossi, his challenger, made contact with teammate Marco Andretti seconds after the start and broke his front wing.

Rossi had to pit for a new part, dropped to last in the field, and the championship was decided. Dixon held a 29-point lead over Rossi at the start of the day, and even though the race was worth double points, Rossi needed to be perfect to catch “The Iceman.”

Dixon finished second, the same place he started, behind winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. His fifth title moves him into second in IndyCar history, two behind A.J. Foyt.

Formula One

Lewis Hamilton wins the floodlit Singapore Grand Prix from pole position to extend his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel to a commanding 40 points.

The Mercedes driver made a clean start and was largely untroubled as he beat Red Bull driver Max Verstappen by nine seconds, with Vettel much further back in third.

The four-time Formula One champion recorded his seventh win of the season and 69th of his F1 career. Vettel’s championship bid crumbled when he crashed from pole here last year and then went on to lose the title by 46 points to Hamilton.

NHRA

J.R. Todd took the Funny Car points lead, winning the playoff-opening Dodge NHRA Nationals in Mohnton, Pennsylvania, for his second straight victory.

Coming off a victory in the prestigious U.S. Nationals, Todd beat Tim Wilkerson in the final Maple Grove Raceway with a 3.972-second run at 319.90 mph in a Toyota Camry.

Todd raced to his fourth victory the season and sixth overall and gave Kalitta Motorsports and team owner Connie Kalitta their 10th victory.

Steve Torrence won in Top Fuel, Vincent Nobile in Pro Stock, and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle in the first of six events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

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