By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Restrictor plate success has come naturally to Brad Keselowski throughout his career, but when it comes to the Daytona 500, there seems to be a ceiling that he just can’t break through, falling short time and again.
When asked about his thoughts on trying to win the season opening spectacle, the Team Penske drive didn’t mince words on the rollercoaster the Great American Race can be.
“This track is frustrating as hell,” Keselowski said. “There is no way around it. It is a track that I feel like we are good enough to win at every time we come here and it hasn’t come together and that sucks. Especially when you get wrecked out and there is nothing you can do about it.
“You just pick up the pieces and go on. the good thing about this race is that it is the first race of the year so with that in mind, if you don’t win it, you just immediately move right on to Atlanta. You only get a few days to cry in your milk. That has been kind of the way it is.”
Zero for eight in the Daytona 500, Keselowski looks back at one race in particular as the one that got away.
“Probably 2014. We had the car to win and it was one of the few races we have had down here that we had speed and not been wrecked out. I just missed the last move that I needed to make. It made me a better plate racer. It is probably the reason why I won a handful of races right after it. You win from losing sometimes. But I still would like to have it back with the knowledge I have now.”
In addition to that race that he finished third behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Denny Hamlin (his best Daytona 500 finish), Keselowski noted that there are other times in his racing career that he would like to have a redo of.
“There are moments that you would like to have back for sure, but there are moments that also made me better and I wouldn’t have gotten better without the mistake. So I don’t know if regret is the right term. I wish I could just do it over again, but with the lesson. That isn’t how the world works though. You have to move forward.”
Though the Daytona 500 in itself has been frustrating for Keselowski, he stated that restrictor plate racing in general has gone through a change in recent years that has been equally as maddening, with drivers not always in the mix for wins finding themselves near the front of the field and causing chaos.
“It seems like there are a number of people that get into the top two or three that really just have no clue what they are doing and they pull really bad, juvenile mistake moves and wreck the field. That has been unfortunate but it is what has been happening lately,” he said.
“Just people that throw blocks that don’t understand the runs or what is around them. They don’t have full situational of spatial awareness but they think they do which is even more dangerous.
“You can block if you know what you are doing but not every move can be blocked. You have a handful of people that have cars good enough to run up front and think that they can block every move and you can’t. It isn’t going to happen. You are going to wreck or wreck everybody else.”
With finishes of 27th or worse in the last four races at the World Center of Racing, Keselowski and the No. 2 team will have their work cut out for them on Sunday, with two pit road penalties in Thursday night’s qualifying race relegating them to a 35th place start.