Lack of speed hurts Keseloski’s championship run

Nigel Kinrade/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

HOMESTEAD, Fla.— After having some luck last weekend at Phoenix Raceway to advance to the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Brad Keselowski’s hope at scoring a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship will have to wait another year.

The weekend for Keselowski and the No. 2 Ford team started off on the wrong foot. During the first practice session of the weekend, the team only ran five laps and placed 21st on the board. Despite the lack of practice time before qualifying, Keselowski powered the Miller Lite Ford to the fifth position.

After Saturday morning’s practice sessions, Keselowski knew that the car felt a “little better than we were here at the test.” However, the team was still needed a couple of tenths to run with his competitors in the championship. Another challenge for Keselowski was battling a loose race car.

As the green flag fell on the 267 lap, Ford EcoBoost 400, the handling issues continued to plague Keselowski. Crew chief, Paul Wolfe, continued to coach Keselowski that the handling would eventually come to him. When the caution flew for the No. 83 of Joey Gase, Keselowski brought his Ford down to the pit lane for an adjustment, four tires and fuel.

With the fresh tires, Keselowski powered through the field up to the second position. Keselowski once again took the pit lane with the leaders during scheduled green flag pit stops. Keselowski was able to finish the first stage in the second position. The Ford was getting tighter for Keselowski.

The adjustments made during the stage break seemed to be on the aggressive side. In an effort to make something out of there race, Wolfe attempted to short-pit Keselowski. Keselowski finished the second stage in the fifth position.

Throughout the final stage, the threat of Keselowski with the rest of the championship was almost non-existent. Keselowski finished the race in the seventh position, the last of all four championship contenders.

“We ran as hard as we could and put it all out there and just basically didn’t have enough speed.  On the mile-and-a-halves we weren’t as good as the 78 and 18 and those guys.  This last race coming down to a mile-and-a-half didn’t particularly bode well for us, but my team ran as hard as they could run,” said Keslowski. “They made some great calls – Paul Wolfe and everybody and put ourselves in position every chance we could to make the most out of the opportunities that existed without just being lightning fast, but it wasn’t there.”

Going into the off-season, Keselowski knows that Team Penske will have to find some more speed going into the 2018 season.

“We’ve just got to be faster.  We can’t show up and be that far behind on the mile-and-a-halves.  We know that.  That Toyota car is a good ways in front of us and we’ve got to figure that out.”

Although a second championship will have to wait another, Keselowski was proud of the effort his team put in throughout the grueling Cup season.

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