Just as Brad Keselowski looked to be turning his season around, his chances at competing for a championship ended when he was eliminated from the NASCAR playoffs at Kansas last weekend.
“I’m proud of what we did down the stretch of the year,” Keselowski said. “We won three races and did all that. I feel like we can go win Martinsville next week, so I’m excited about that, but of course, the ultimate goal is to win a championship, and we won’t have an opportunity to do that this year.”
One month ago, Keselowski was sitting on three consecutive wins, the third of which opened the NASCAR postseason in Las Vegas. The 2012 champ followed up Vegas with a ninth-place run at Richmond on Sept. 22nd, and headed into the final race in the first round knowing he was locked into the Round of 12.
Keselowski led 29 laps at Charlotte, the playoffs first elimination race, but finished 31st. Leading late, he missed Turn 1 and put his Ford nose-first into the tire barriers. Things have continued to go downhill for the team since.
Keselowski was 14th at Dover. Running in the top five inside the final 10 laps, he was wrecked off a restart. He was then 27th at Talladega Superspeedway. Lined up for an overtime restart, he ran out of fuel.
Going into Kansas Speedway, he was 18 points below the cut line.
Knowing the team needed to maximize points or pull off a win, crew chief Paul Wolfe twice had Keselowski stay on track longer in a fuel run during the Hollywood Casino 400, but the strategy never panned out. Keselowski did not score points in either stage, and a sixth-place finish wasn’t enough to secure a transfer spot.
“I would say about the end of that first stage it was pretty obvious that we needed something after I saw some things on the other cars,” Keselowski said. “We needed something to step up, but it just wasn’t there. We just weren’t as good [Sunday] as we were [Saturday] and I’m not sure why. Everyone else seemed to find a little from practice, and we were about the same, maybe a little worse than we were in practice.”
Keselowski’s average finish through both rounds of the playoffs was 14.6, and he did lead laps in each of the six races. Last year, he made it to the title race in Homestead and finished fourth in points.