By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 11
Career Wins: 27
Biggest Accomplishment: 2012 Cup Series Champion
After a handful of near-misses last season, it looked as if Brad Keselowski would be heading into the Playoffs without a win, putting himself behind the eight-ball when it came to the postseason.
Then came the Southern 500 at Darlington, and the No. 2 team came alive. Despite not having the fastest car, they swept the weekend at the “Lady in Black,” snagging the first Darlington wins for Keselowski in both the Xfinity and Cup Series.
The wins were just what the doctor ordered because they made a return to Victory Lane the following race at Indianapolis. Keselowski once again didn’t have the fastest car, but in the closing laps, he was able to outduel Denny Hamlin to take the win and deliver team owner Roger Penske his first win in the Brickyard 400.
With momentum at his back, it was déjà vu all over again when the Playoffs began at Las Vegas and he won for a third straight week, silencing the doubters and making a case for a deep run toward a second Cup championship.
However, those three wins would be the highlight of his season and he would find himself eliminated from the Playoffs a handful of weeks later in Kansas, eventually coming home with an eighth-place points finish.
“We won three Cup races in a row,” Keselowski recalled on his blog. “We swept the weekend at Darlington. We won two of the crown jewels in NASCAR, which is something I’ll never forget. We got Roger Penske his first Brickyard win, which was incredible, and then we got him win No. 500, too. To top it off, we got a Playoff win.
“Winning races without having the fastest car is one of the most challenging things you can do as a team. When it happens, your team is inclined to work harder to give you a fast car because they believe in you more. To win three straight races without the fastest car tells you something about the 2 team. It tells you we’re gritty. It shows that we’re committed to finding ways to win. And finally, it shows that we’re not going quietly into the night when we’re not the fastest car out there.”
Despite falling short of the championship, Team Penske still captured the hardware courtesy of teammate Joey Logano, so the organization is primed to make another run at it in 2019. Keselowski will have an intact team from last season, minus spotter Joey Meier, who will be replaced by Coleman Pressley for the upcoming season.
The team will also have to deal with the new Ford Mustang body and aero package that will make its debut in 2019. Luckily, Keselowski will get some seat time with it before the season starts as he is scheduled to take part in a NASCAR test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday.
Should everything fall into place this season, there’s no reason why Keselowski shouldn’t be able to make the Playoffs and be a contender for the title once again.