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Keselowski hoping for repeat victory at Pocono

- Associated Press - Saturday, August 4, 2012

LONG POND, PA. (AP) - Brad Keselowski won last August at Pocono driving 500 miles on a broken left ankle.

Well, Sunday's race is only 400 miles and his ankle is feeling pretty good these days.

Imagine what he can do here when healthy.

Keselowski's victory placed him in prime position to claim one of two wild-card spots available for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He won't need that help this season. He's in ninth place but three victories this year already guarantee him a spot in the field.

"The only thing I really am concerned about now is winning a race and winning another race and then another," he said Saturday. "That's what drives me before the race starts."

Keselowski lost his brakes during a test session and crashed head-on into a wall at Road Atlanta days before coming to Pocono. His broken left ankle ballooned to the size of a softball, and he needed a left shoe a size larger than his right one. He slapped a brace on his ankle then sped off on the final restart late in the race to take the checkered flag.

He has another obstacle in the No. 2 Dodge, this time a poor 31st qualifying run on Saturday.

"I'm glad to be back at Pocono for obvious reasons, so it's nice to return to a track where you've had success," he said. "(We) just have to stay patient and find our way up to the front toward the end when it counts."

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PHILLY FAN: Denny Hamlin has become Philadelphia's two-sport star.

Hamlin was invited last season by coach Doug Collins to address the Philadelphia 76ers during their playoff run and played a game of HORSE with guards Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.

Hamlin recently stopped by Philadelphia Eagles training camp and played catch with quarterback Michael Vick. Forget racing for the Sprint Cup championship. There were almost more nerves trying to catch a simple pass than there are gearing up to drive 400 miles at Pocono.

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson hollered "Don't miss it!" as Vick had Hamlin go deep.

"It was pretty cool," Hamlin said. "I tried kicking a field goal and I thought that 30 yards would be simply a chip shot and we had to move way in and I still didn't make it. I found something that I'm pretty bad at."

Hamlin said Vick is an athlete he's always admired.

Maybe next year Hamlin can try and sneak a wrist shot past Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov or take some cuts off Phillies ace Cole Hamels.

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SLOW DOWN: Too bad for the Pocono coffers that speeding tickets weren't actually written for drivers busted for speeding entering or exiting pit road in the June race. There were a whopping 22 violations, which had some drivers insisting there had to be a malfunction in the timing loops that track speed.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, said that wasn't the case. The track was repaved and pit road underwent a makeover, which led to new placement of scoring loops from last season.

Drivers will be extra careful Sunday of how they approach their pit stops.

"With so many people having trouble there, I'm not sure what took place," Jimmie Johnson said. "I'm sure it's a smaller segment, but we have much smaller segments at other race tracks that don't have as much trouble as that one did."

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OLYMPIC FEVER: Forget green, yellow and checkered.

Could Carl Edwards' primary color have been gold _ as in a gold medal at the Olympics?

Uh, no.

While Edwards loves to nail his signature backflip after each NASCAR victory, he does have the aid of a stock car to serve as his stand in for a balance beam.

He'll stick to flips at Victory Lane instead of medal stands.

"I need a race car out there to jump off to do any gymnastics," Edwards said. "I have been watching, and it has been really neat to watch."

Could there ever be a day where "start your engines" is heard _ on tape delay, of course _ at the Olympics?

Hey, if pros such as LeBron James and Serena Williams can compete in the Olympics, why not throw the world's best drivers out there every four years?

"I don't know if the world is ready for a bunch of race car drivers in the Olympics," Edwards said with a laugh. "I don't know if Bob Costas could explain some of the things we do or say."

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SMOKE SAID IT: Long one of the most maligned tracks in Sprint Cup, Pocono Raceway has made needed upgrades over the last few years that left drivers raving about the new look at the triangle track.

Well, most drivers.

Asked what he liked best and least about Pocono, defending champion Tony Stewart was his typical blunt self.

"The thing I look forward to the most is getting on the helicopter to leave," he said. "The thing I look forward to the least is getting off the plane when I get here."

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NICKNAMES: The UFC on Fox card Saturday night featured fighters nicknamed "The Truth," "Shogun," "The Dragon," and "Darth."

Somehow, the "Rainbow Warrior," might not have worked in the octagon.

"I don't think so," Jeff Gordon said, laughing. "You better kick some (rear) if you've got that name. The difference is, they come up with their names. I didn't come up with that one."

These days, Gordon goes by, "four time." It's a fitting handle for the four-time Cup champion.

"I like that one," he said.

Gordon turned 41 on Saturday.

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