Brad Keselowski is bothered by the Daytona 500.
“There’s no doubt this track is frustrating as hell,” he said during Daytona 500 Media Day. “There’s no way around it. It’s a track that I feel like we’re good enough to win at every time we come here, and it hasn’t come together, and that sucks. Especially when you get wrecked out, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just pick up the pieces and go on.
“The good thing about this race is that it’s the first race of the year, so with that in mind if you don’t win it, you just immediately move right on to Atlanta. You only get a few days to cry in your milk. That’s been kind of the way it is.”
Keselowski knows how to win NASCAR Cup Series races. If one were to look deep enough, they’d find that the Team Penske driver has won on all but one type of track on the circuit. A road course win is all that’s left.
But wins at short tracks like Martinsville, Bristol, and Richmond? Keselowski’s got ’em. The intermediates such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, and Las Vegas? He’s earned a bunch of checkered flags from those. Superspeedways success? He’s one of the best at Talladega and has a summer Daytona victory under his belt, too.
Last year, Keselowski also added two of NASCAR’s crown jewel events, to his resume when he went to victory lane on back-to-back weekends with the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and then the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. And don’t forget he’s also a former (2012) champion.
But Keselowski has gone nine attempts with little success in the Daytona 500. Never has he started the race inside the top 10 and just twice has he finished there: 2013 and ’14. Like any driver, Keselowski can tell you which Daytona 500 that he’d like to have back.
“Probably 2014,” said Keselowski. “I think we had the car to win and it was one of the few races we have had down here that we had speed and not been wrecked out. I just missed the last move I needed to make.
“It made me a better plate racer. It’s probably the reason why I won a handful of races right after it because you win from losing sometimes. But I still would like to have it back with the knowledge I have now.”
Keselowski was running second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. with seven laps to go when the final caution came out in 2014. Having led 13 laps in the race, the No. 2 looked to be one of the few cars that could make the moves it needed to and was a legitimate foe for Earnhardt. Except he wound up third at the checkered flag because of the “last move,” which Keselowski didn’t elaborate on, that he didn’t make right.
“It was just the last restart with Dale Jr.,” Keselowski said looking back.
Since that day, Keselowski has led just three laps in the Daytona 500 and has failed to finish three of the last four races. Like he said, frustrating as hell.