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Keselowski: ‘I’m gonna make that move again’ in Daytona 500 after Clash Crash
- Updated: February 19, 2017
By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brad Keselowski is one of NASCAR’s elite restrictor-plate drivers, with five-career victories between Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Yet, for the fifth time, a win in the year-opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona exhibition race has eluded him.
“It’s the story of my life here it seems,” Keselowski said. “I think I’ve been in position to win it three or four times – in second or third in like the last two laps and it kind of falls apart with something, but you’ve just got to keep knocking on the door.”
Keselowski seemed to do everything right in Sunday’s rescheduled Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona. He led early from the pole, and despite being sent to the tail-end of the field for driving through too many pit boxes on Lap 18 found himself in contention in the closing moments of the 75-lap race.
With five laps remaining Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) led the way, commanding the top four positions in a sight reminiscent of the 2016 Daytona 500.
However, from that moment on Keselowski altered the script.
With the help of Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and others, Keselowski methodically picked the JGR quartet apart, passing them one-by-one until, on the race’s penultimate lap, the Michigander found himself challenging Denny Hamlin for the race lead.
Unfortunately for Keselowski, from there things fell apart. The 2012 Cup Series champion dove under Hamlin with a push from Logano in Turn 2, but when Hamlin attempted to close the gap the two made contact.
Hamlin was sent spinning to the infield, and Keselowski was taken out of contention. Logano went on to win the race.
— Aaron Bearden (@aaronbearden93) February 19, 2017
“It’s unfortunate,” Keselowski said. “I had to make the move. I know all the other drivers are back watching and they know not to make that block on me again.”
Despite the crash, after the race Keselowski expressed more confidence in the statement he and Team Penske had made than disappointment in the end result.
“It is the Clash, it’s not the 500 and I guarantee he knows and everyone else who is watching today that I’m gonna make that move again, and you better move or you’re going to get wrecked.” Keselowski said.
And as for JGR, who dominated Speedweeks just one year ago, Keselowski feels they’re as vulnerable as ever.
“No, we can beat them,” Keselowski said of JGR. “They’re good. We can do it.”
The Clash didn’t end the way Keselowski wanted, but as he and the rest of the field know, it’s next Sunday’s Daytona 500 that counts largest at week’s end.
Keselowski has been close to a Daytona triumph twice, with successive top fives in 2013 and ’14. However, a win in ‘The Great American Race’ has eluded him thus far.
Last season’s Daytona 500 was a rare miss for Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford, ending in a disappointing 20th-place result. However, the seven-year Cup Series veteran followed it with his first victory on the 2.5-mile oval in last season’s summer race.
The Team Penske shoe believes this season’s edition of the event won’t mirror the last.
“Last year, we ran really good in the Unlimited and we were terrible in the 500 and it was really disappointing to be honest. But this year I think we’ve learned a lot from that and have applied it and our car seems to be a lot better for the 500 than even for the Unlimited, so I’m excited about it. I’m ready to go.”
Whether Keselowski is correct remains to be seen. But one thing is certain – if Keselowski sees a similar opening at the end of the race, the leader may want to reconsider throwing a block.