An Anniversary Keselowski Doesn't Celebrate
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on September 28, 2013 | 11:17 A.M. EST
Brad Keselowski enters this weekend's AAA 400 at Dover on a 35-race winless streak. (Photo: Getty Images)
Dover, Del. - Brad Keselowski crossed the finish line and delivered a message over his radio to his team.
For days before the race, he had heard about how Dover International Speedway was his weakest track in the Chase.
Take that, Keselowski said with his performance.
That was last year - after his fifth victory of the season, which put him into the points lead and on the way to the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Keselowski hasn’t won a Cup race since.
He also isn’t in the Chase and can’t defend his title.
Keselowski is in this situation because of strategy that didn’t work, cautions that came out at the wrong time and series officials that determined his team violated rules at different times this year.
The best the defending series champion can finish in the points is 14th, which will be his worst result since 2010, his opening season with Penske Racing.
Through all that, it still seems hard to believe that Keselowski has gone 35 races since his last Cup victory. Remember that he opened the season by scoring four consecutive top-five finishes and leading the points. He also finished second at Watkins Glen, dueling with Kyle Busch.
Keselowski, who will start sixth in Sunday’s AAA 400, is not as focused on this anniversary, though.
“I look at it as it’s been every week that I haven’t won,’’ he said. “That’s how I think of it. You’ve got to move forward as fast as you can in this sport because if you’re not moving forward, this sport will move without you. Looking back at where we were at last year is something I’m certainly very proud of, but I’m obviously looking forward at what we can do to win now.”
He enters this weekend with one top-10 finish in the last six races, a seventh-place finish at New Hampshire.
He was in a position to make the Chase as late as Bristol but a 30th-place finish dropped him out of the top 10 in points. Without a win, he wasn’t eligible for a Wild Card spot. It also didn’t help that NASCAR penalized his team twice, docking him a total of 31 points. He lost 25 points for a violation found before the Texas race. He lost six points after his car failed post-race inspection at Dover in June.
“You start the whole year off and goal one is to make the Chase,’’ said Keselowski, who was the fastest in Saturday's final practice session. “Goal two is to win races, but goal one is to always make the Chase for a team. I want to do that by winning races and we’ve been stupid-fast this year in a lot of different races and haven’t put it all together, so that’s why we’re not in it. Obviously, we have a very fast car here. I expect to be really strong in the race, but, at the end of the day, you’ve got to put together a race. That’s what counts.”
One thing Keselowski can look back upon is how fast his car has been this season.
“Speed is the backbone of winning races, but, as we’ve seen racing develop this year, more than ever, it’s about a lot more than being fast,’’ he said. “You’ve got to execute. You’ve got to be up front at the end of the race because of track position sensitivities and that’s what we haven’t done.’’
It’s something Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe took advantage of last season with pit calls. For all the calls that went right last year, they’ve gone wrong this season.
That leaves Keselowski unable to race for a title.
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Sunday’s AAA 400 beginning at 1 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.