For the first time in nine years, Brad Keselowski will not be in the championship field when the NASCAR playoffs begin.
Keselowski was eliminated from contention Sunday at Daytona in the regular-season finale when he was collected in a multicar crash on lap 31. The only way into the postseason for Keselowski and his No. 6 RKF Racing team was to win the race.
“It’s frustrating, but whenever your season is down to one race, you’ve got a lot more going on than just that one race,” Keselowski said. “Our team put a lot of effort into getting this car ready. They brought a great car, so I hurt for them that we didn’t get a chance to show it.”
A former Daytona winner, Keselowski had felt enough from his Ford in less than a stage of competition to be confident he could have contended for the win. Keselowski is winless in his first year with his new team and was 27th in the overall championship standings going into the day.
“We were pretty good,” said Keselowski. “We had a shot to run for it today and never got a chance to show it.”
The crash was triggered by accordion effect contact between Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Blaney on the inside lane off Turn 2. A loss of momentum appeared to slow Jones, who was tagged by Hamlin as he was being shoved by Blaney.
Keselowski, running on the outside by the wall, had nowhere to go when Christopher Bell and Blaney came back up the racetrack. A total of six cars were involved.
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“Somebody wrecked in front of me,” Keselowski said. “I’m not really sure exactly what happened, but there were just a bunch of cars wrecking in front of me. I didn’t have anywhere to go and couldn’t slow down in time, so I hate it for our team. We had a really fast race car.”
The 2012 series champion, Keselowski had made the playoffs every year since the elimination format began (2014). He made Championship 4 appearances in 2017 and 2020, finishing second in the championship in ’20.
Will it be weird for Keselowski not to be in championship mode to end the year?
“I’m not thinking about it that way,” he said. “I’m just focused on getting better with our own team every day.”