Brad Keselowski isn’t necessarily disappointed he didn’t leave Homestead-Miami Speedway as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Instead, the 2012 Cup titlist is thrilled in the effort of his Team Penske crew, which persevered against Toyota Racing power.
“My team ran as hard as they could run,” Keselowski said after a seventh-place finish. “They put us in position every chance they could to make the most out of the opportunities that exist without being lightning fast.”
Keselowski started the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in fifth position. By the end of the first stage, his No. 2 Ford roared up to the runner-up spot behind a dominant Kyle Larson.
“You’re going to have times when you’re the fastest,” Keselowski said. “You have to capitalize on those. But you’re going to have times when you’re not and make the most of them. Credit to all of those guys because we forced them to run as hard as they could multiple times.”
The three-time winner in 2017 said the handling on his car was better during the daylight. As the night went on, however, he slipped back. Equal tires on the Championship 4 contenders revealed Keselowski had the slowest speed of the four.
The No. 2 Ford wound up fifth in the second stage after an intense battle with the rest of the Championship 4, led by eventual 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr.
That’s about where he was the rest of the night. Once the final caution came out on lap 229, Keselowski maintained a spot in the top 10. However, he didn’t have the speed to advance through to the front of the pack.
“I feel like I ran a damn near perfect race,” Keselowski said. “I just didn’t have enough speed.”
Though Keselowski finished fourth in the standings, he encouraged his team to move forward. The goal for next season is to be faster on the 1.5-mile tracks, something he wishes could have been the case on Sunday.
What was the reason Team Penske fell so far behind on intermediates? The driver was quick to point the finger at the body of 2017 manufacturer’s champion Toyota.
“When that car rolled out at Daytona, and I think we all got to see it for the first time,” he said. “I think there were two reactions: one, we couldn’t believe NASCAR approved it; and two, we were impressed by the design team over there.
“With that said, I don’t think anyone ever had a shot this year the second that thing got put on the racetrack and approved. It kind of felt like Formula 1 where you had one car that made it through the gate head and shoulders above everyone… If [Ford doesn’t design a new body], we’re going to take a drubbing next year, so we’ll have to see.”
There was still a special moment for Keselowski after the checkered flag. When he pulled the No. 2 car onto pit road, he immediately stopped by Matt Kenseth’s Ford. After catching his breath, he went over to Kenseth for a handful of minutes. As the two ended their talk, Keselowski hugged the 2003 Cup champion, showing respect for the driver of the No. 20 car’s final start at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Said Keselowski, “I just wanted to tell him ‘congrats.”