Keselowski, Penske Pursue Dover Turnaround
All good things must come to an end. Brad Keselowski had finished 46 consecutive races – a streak that began at Phoenix in March of last year – until his No. 2 Penske Racing Ford was collected in late-race accident in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
Effectively, it amounted to another other shoe dropping. The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion didn’t miss a beat despite the changing of the calendar and a switch to Ford and Roush-Yates-built engines. Through the season’s first eight races, Keselowski posted an average finish of 7.3 and led 103 laps.
But performance soured beginning with a 33rd-place finish at Richmond. Keselowski has led just four laps in the most recent four races – two without crew chief Paul Wolfe – with an average finish of 29.0. Keselowski made just one lap in the Sprint All-Star Race before his car’s driveshaft broke.
Charlotte’s DNF dropped Keselowski to 10th in the standings, three points ahead of two-time winner Kyle Busch. A year ago, Keselowski was 11th – but with a victory.
This week’s race can be a turnaround on several fronts. Keselowski won last fall’s Dover event. The victory was crucial in his drive to the NASCAR Sprint Cup title. Keselowski’s Dover resume had been thin – just five races and no top 10s. Dover was one of 16 tracks at which Keselowski matched or bettered his career-best finish last year.
Perhaps most significantly, the FedEx 400 marks the return of key Penske personnel – including Wolfe – from suspensions that followed parts infractions during the Texas Motor Speedway event in April.
“It’s still very early, six months in,” Keselowski said prior to the Coca-Cola 600. “I would certainly like to be in a better position than where I’m at right now. Unfortunately, we haven’t produced those results and that’s on us to get right.
“There are a number of reasons for that. I know the speed is there and speed is the building block one of winning the race and then you obviously have to have execution and luck and we haven’t put two and three together to really build the house that it takes to win.”