Brad Keselowski‘s goal for the Daytona 500 was pretty simple.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity of hopefully not getting caught up in somebody else’s wreck and if that happens, capitalizing,” Keselowski told media on Jan. 26.
It’s an understandable goal for someone who entered Sunday’s race having wrecked out of six of the last eight Daytona races.
He was roughly a mile from accomplishing that goal and winning his first Daytona 500 early Monday morning.
That’s where the “but” comes in.
Running in second place on the last lap behind teammate Joey Logano, Keselowski received a shot from Michael McDowell as the field neared turn 3. That led to contact between Keselowski and Logano, causing them to lose control. Logano spun toward the infield while Keselowski turned right into the outside wall as a chain reaction ensued.
The result was a fiery crash that saw Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford briefly ride on top of the outside wall. At least one tire went bouncing through the wreckage.
Instead of completing his set of Crown Jewel wins, Keselowski was credited with 13th-place finish as McDowell raced on to collect his first Cup Series victory.
“I don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everybody else’s car,” Keselowski told FOX. “So frustrating. The Discount Tire Ford was not the fastest, but (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and the whole team did a great job of keeping us in position and right then we were in position. It’s exactly where I want to be running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package and had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”
Keselowski is now winless in 12 Daytona 500 starts.
The 2012 Cup champion showed his frustration after the wreck, heaving his helmet into remains of his car.
— Nathan (@b1gnate_11) February 15, 2021
Meanwhile, Logano earned a 12th-place finish after being less than half-a-lap from earning his second Daytona 500 crown.
Logano, who led laps 175-199, described the last circuit of the 2.5-mile track as “pandemonium.”
“Chaos struck. [Keselowski] kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of [McDowell] and it ended up being a really big run coming at me and it seemed like we all just collided in one spot. It’s a real bummer that none of the Penske cars won, but at least a Ford won and I’m really happy for McDowell.
“I feel like we had a great shot being where we were and leading on the last lap, but if we couldn’t win I’m really happy to see McDowell win this thing. He’s a great guy, a great person, a good leader in life and has helped me a lot in my life, so it’s very cool to see him win the Daytona 500.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 15, 2021
My body is fine but my heart is broke
Months of studying, months of tremendous car prep from the #2crew & in the perfect position at the end…
Yet, Another #DAYTONA500 slips away…
What else can you say?
What else can you do but be grateful for the opportunity?
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 15, 2021