DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — One of the best superspeedway drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series today is Brad Keselowski. No one will argue with you when you tell them that. His six wins on them rank him first among all active drivers right now. If things go his way and he avoids the “big ones” and can be there in the end, he most certainly would be pushing double digits in the win column.
“That’s been the hardest part for me,” Keselowski said in 2019. “I feel we’ve been good enough to win it multiple times. We get caught up in somebody else’s wreck or problem. I think you see that a lot.
“Besides the luck factor, first things first, you got to be running at the end of that race. For whatever reason, I think maybe because it’s the first race of the year, maybe because it’s one of the biggest races of the year, I’m not entirely sure, but the Daytona 500 has traditionally been a race of very high attrition. Getting to the end has been very difficult for us.
“It’s probably kept us from winning it at least once or twice because, like I said earlier, I think we’ve had the car to do it. I think that’s a big part of why it’s so hard to win, the attrition factor, just surviving it to begin with.
“Again, of course, it is a difficult racetrack. This time of year, Florida is a lot hotter than most parts of North America, but this time of year it seems to be one of those racetracks that you practice and you qualify, then the race day, for whatever reason, the track temp goes way up, the cars slide around a lot more, chaos ensues. Trying to survive to the end for me is the biggest part.
“The races we have survived till the end, we have ran really well and been in a position to win. Hopefully that’s the case for us this year. I feel confident if I can be there at the end, we can win the race.”
Despite saying that, they’ve struggled during Daytona Speedweeks though.
Take Keselowski for example, he’s had 29 career Cup Series starts during Speedweeks. In those races, he’s won just once. That came in 2018 in the Clash. In those 29 overall races, he only has six top five finishes in them, three of which coming in the Clash alone. In 10 of his 29 races, he’s finished 20th or worse.
He just doesn’t have the results or luck at that.
“It’s something I thought a lot about,” said Keselowski. “There’s a couple thoughts on my mind. Before last season I had never really won a major NASCAR race. I won the championship, done a lot of those things, which is certainly great. I hadn’t won a major. Last year (2018) after winning Darlington and Indianapolis, gosh, the thrill from that. I’m still kind of on a high from that. That was almost six months ago.
“But Daytona is, of course, the 500, one major I don’t have. I feel like it’s a race we’ve been competitive at. We had opportunities to win it. For a number of reasons, it hasn’t come together, which is sometimes unsettling. People ask me all the time, What race is the one that got away? It’s the 500, has been so far. I want to change that.
“We have a great opportunity to do that this year. We have a rules package we’re pretty familiar with. The Ford Mustang has now come out. We had our pre-season testing in Las Vegas. It looks like it’s going to be a killer car. We’re really excited about that.
“Opportunities are in front of us. I feel like if I could win the Daytona 500, it would be the biggest win of my career. I’m ready to do it. I still have a good understanding of what it’s going to take to do it. It’s just a matter of kind of putting the whole race together from my perspective, from the team’s perspective as well, then not having any bad luck.”
In the Duels, eight of his 11 starts have seen him finish outside of the top 10. In the Daytona 500, he has eight finishes outside of the top 10 in 10 tries.
Other than the Clash, he’s struggled during Speedweeks. Eight of his last 12 superspeedway starts overall have seen him finish 19th or worse.
He hit a pole in practice on Saturday and crashed in the Clash last Sunday.