By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
From a dominant hero last week at Martinsville to near absolute zero at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday for Brad Keselowski after a sudden mechanical issue knocked him out of contention from scoring back-to-back wins and finished 36th.
Keselowski’s woes capped off a miserable weekend after failing to finish Saturday’s Xfinity Series race due to an accident that was beyond repairable.
Despite a frustrating Saturday, Keselowski had hoped to turn things around and build the momentum he has in Cup after leading 446 of 500 laps at Martinsville.
It wasn’t the case for the man with two wins in 2019 as he battled a loose car throughout the opening stage and ended up 17th while his Penske teammate Joey Logano took the stage victory.
The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Mustang crew had already made track bar adjustments during a pit stop, therefore they stayed out under the stage caution. At that point of the race, Keselowski was scrubbing his tires before the second stage went green, but suddenly his gears went awry and had to make an unscheduled stop. The damage couldn’t be done in the pits, so the team brought Keselowski’s car into the garage area to make extensive repairs.
When he got out of his car, Keselowski said his car couldn’t go all of a sudden as a vital part must’ve been broken.
“Something broke out of nowhere,” said Keselowski. “We weren’t going very fast or anything and something in the back of the car broke and it won’t go. It’s one of those really important parts as Kenny Schrader would say.”
For awhile, it appeared that Keselowski’s streak of 347 races without finishing in last was in jeopardy. Ironically, the streak began at Texas when he made his Cup debut in 2008. However, the repairs were successfully made and on the 146th lap, the No. 2 Ford Mustang returned on track.
The goal became simple over the team’s radio communications, not end up 39th.
Fortunately, that came into fruition not that long after Keselowski exited the garage as a flat right front tire by Kyle Larson sent him into the Turn 2 wall. Larson brought his car into the pits, where his car lit up in flames underneath the hood. It resulted him to officially retire from Texas on the 154th lap and later took 39th from Keselowski 50 laps later.
Retirements from both Timmy Hill, who only completed 168 laps due to a clutch failure, and his other Penske teammate Ryan Blaney, who led 45 laps before overheating took him out after running 225 laps, allowed Keselowski to gain two more valuable spots and ended up 36th, 55 laps behind race winner Denny Hamlin.
Not only Keselowski avoided a last-place result, but also his first DNF of the season as his last DNF was at the Charlotte Roval last September where his day ended after overshooting the TUMS Heartburn Turn late in the race, resulting in a multi-car crash.
Keselowski dropped from fifth to sixth in points, and is now 73 points behind points leader Kyle Busch. Moving forward, Keselowski hopes for a far better weekend at Bristol for the annual Food City 500 April 7, a track he’s won twice including the 2012 spring race.