By Cole Cusumano
As Brad Keselowski gears up for his 11th full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, it would be easier to list what he hasn’t accomplished. He recently overtook Fireball Roberts on the all-time wins list, bested Jimmie Johnson in his prime for his first Championship and has won two crowned-jewel events. Not to mention, 2020 was one of the strongest seasons of his career en route to finishing runner-up in the standings at 36 years old.
Yet something has eluded Keselowski – a Daytona 500 victory and his name etched on the Harley J. Earl trophy.
“I’m one crowned jewel away from having them all, which is really cool and special for me,” Keselowski said. “That’s definitely on the [bucket] list, but I think the team is pretty good and I’m really happy with a lot of the people I’m working with. Jeremy’s got an incredible attitude that is really healthy for our team and it was a really fresh, new challenge for me last year.”
The driver of the No. 2 is approaching Earnhardt territory in terms of superspeedway wins, which makes the enigma of The Great American Race even more puzzling. Although, upon knowing the details, it’s not as surprising as you’d think.
For starters, five out of his six restrictor plate victories are skewed in favor of Talladega Superspeedway. While Keselowski has displayed an outstanding ability to navigate these types of tracks, he’s aware of his recent struggles.
“After the rules changed in 2019, the race at Daytona (International Speedway), specifically, really turned into a crash fest,” Keselowski said. “You have very little to no ability to control the race as the leader and since that’s happened I think there’s been more of an emphasis on riding in the back, surviving, and we’ve seen that be very successful.”
Since the implementation of tapered spacers and adjusted spoilers, Keselowski has wrecked in six of the last eight races at Daytona with an average finish of 24.3. With no rules changes since 2019 and the unwavering determination of 39 other drivers in the field to win the Daytona 500, odds are the task at hand will be just as challenging in 2021.
“The opportunity is coming up real quick here in the next few weeks.” Keselowski said. “I still have a hunger and eagerness to achieve more results. Nothing’s taken for granted, everything has to be earned. I’m willing to put in the work and I feel like I have a team that is hungry and willing to put in the work as well.
“It’s a really exciting time for us.”
Keselowski will seek triumph at the World Center of Racing in his 12th attempt at the Daytona 500 on February 14 at 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox.