By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – “I felt like I was back in the ‘50’s running a convertible here on the beach. That was interesting,” said Brad Keselowski after failing to finish Saturday’s NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway due to a series of escape hatch issues that denied him of being a race contender.
Keselowski was one of only two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points scorers and showed early pace on his No. 12 Fitzgerald USA Ford Mustang. That wouldn’t last as his roof hatch began flapping on the opening lap.
At first, NASCAR officials were patient on deciding on what to do with the former Cup Series champion if the No. 12 crew just fixes it at the end of the stage, where Keselowski ended up in 14th.
His day would become ramp amended after losing a lap, and so throughout Stage 2, he was positioning himself on being the first car one lap down. With the lead pack running single file, Keselowski followed them at the tail end and when the stage was completed, he got the free pass.
That was short lived as they continued effortlessly to fix the hatch, and the beneficiary wasn’t utilized, losing another lap in the race.
Then the final nail of the coffin to Keselowski’s brutal afternoon occurred a lap after the green flag was dropped in Stage 3 on Lap 72 when the hatch finally gave weigh and landed in the tri-oval grass.
NASCAR black flagged Keselowski and went to the garage, hoping to properly fix it within the crash clock rules, but failed and will be credited with a 37th place result.
Keselowski said there wasn’t anything that could’ve been done to fix the defected hatch, but the Team Penske crew had a hard time repairing it because of the position the damage was located.
“The roof, escape hatch, whatever it is called looks like there was a defect from the factory on the body and just nothing we could do,” said Keselowski. “The guys tried to fix it but it is in a spot where you can’t get to it and work on it. It is made the way it is made. We are stuck. It is one of those things outside your control and sometimes that is just how things go.”
Keselowski added that this issue was more frustrating because he did felt that his car was capable of bringing Roger Penske his first Xfinity Series victory at Daytona.
“I hate it for Fitzgerald and Ford,” Keselowski stated. “I know we had a car that could win today. It broke on lap one, turn one, and we did everything we could to fix it for the last hour or so but it is just not something you can fix. It has to be right from the factory and isn’t something we control. Just part of it I guess.”