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Review / Preview: Brad Keselowski

By Toby Christie     

It was another solid season for one of NASCAR’s best drivers – Brad Keselowski – in 2018. The driver again amassed multiple victories, including a couple of crown jewel wins.

The 2018 season got off to a rough start for the Michigan-native in Speedweeks at Daytona. The No. 2 Ford Fusion was swept up in a crash near the end of the Can-Am Duel qualifying race. As a result, Keselowski would start at the rear of the Daytona 500 field in his back up car.

That car didn’t possess the same speed as his primary and he was never in serious contention for the Daytona 500 win. Keselowski’s race would end in a pileup just after the mid-way point in the race. The No. 2 car would be credited with a 32nd-place finish.

The following week, in Atlanta Keselowski returned to form. He qualified fifth in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 and after leading the race three times for a total of 38 laps, Keselowski won Stage 2 before settling for a second-place finish.

Over the next four races, Keselowski would score another three top-10 finishes and he wouldn’t record a finish lower than 15th.

Then at Texas, the seventh race of the season, Keselowski had another decent car through the first half of the event. Then, a seven-car melee ensued after Denny Hamlin spun in front of the field. Keselowski had nowhere to go and was collected. His race would end there with a 33rd-place finish.

This would mark the start of a four-race rough patch that included a 23rd-place finish at Bristol and another DNF by way of crashing at Talladega.

However, Keselowski, his crew chief and the entire No. 2 Penske team would pull together and get back on track.

Over the next nine races, Keselowski piled on three top-five finishes (Charlotte, Pocono and Kentucky) and six top-10 finishes. It was a positive step for the No. 2 team, but they were still in search of their first victory of the season as the Playoffs were approaching.

Keselowski rolled into Darlington’s Throwback weekend with a beautiful paint scheme which paid homage to Rusty Wallace’s old black and gold Miller Genuine Draft scheme. Through the first Stage of the race, Keselowski looked to have another good, but not great, car. At the end of the first Stage, Keselowski was solidly in fifth-place.

However, as the race rolled on the No. 2 car worked its way into a position to win the race. During a caution with 24 laps remaining, the field came to pit road for the final stop of the day. Keselowski’s crew did quick work, and their car surged ahead of Kyle Larson for the lead.

Keselowski would pull away over the final 22 laps, to capture the win in the Bojangles Southern 500.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my pit crew. We were running second and that last stop they nailed it and got us out in the lead,” Keselowski stated with enthusiasm. “I thought Kyle (Larson) was really good, and he was flat-out flying. I know how it goes. In 2015 we led a bunch of laps and lost it on the last pit stop and today my team won it on the last pit stop. Then it was just about me hitting all my marks and not screwing it up. How cool is this winning in Rusty Wallace’s Throwback car, the Southern 500, Throwback Weekend. It’s probably the biggest win of my career, especially with it being a weekend sweep at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, and today was no different.”

This was Keselowski’s biggest win of his career, for exactly one week as he pulled off another dramatic win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After the race was dominated by Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and others, Keselowski again found himself in position to pull off a dramatic win in the closing laps, after an amazing strategic call by Wolfe.

“My crew chief Paul Wolfe made a heck of a call there to pit late in that run. We had new tires for that restart. Our Discount Tire Ford wasn’t dominate by any means but Paul and everyone on the team executed an incredible race,” Keselowski said. “They never gave up on it and made the most of the strategy. I just had to do my job and here I am in victory lane at the Brickyard. To give Roger Penske his first Cup win here at the Brickyard is just an incredible feeling.”

Keselowski entered the Playoffs on a two-race winning streak. But he wasn’t done yet.
The driver would taste the spoils of victory in Las Vegas for his third-consecutive victory. Needless to say, he kicked off the Playoffs in style.

The Round of 12 wouldn’t go nearly as smoothly as the Round of 16 for Keselowski. He opened the round with a 14th-place finish at Dover, and he followed that up with another poor finish at a restrictor plate race (27th at Talladega). BK would finish sixth at Kansas, but that would not be enough to advance him in the Playoffs.

Keselowski would go on to record three top-five finishes over the final four events of the season.

As Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano smoked his tires following locking up his first championship, Keselowski was left to reflect on his year.

The 34-year-old recorded three wins, 12 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s on his way to an eighth-place finish in the year-end Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship standings.

What will the 2019 season hold for Keselowski and the No. 2 team?

You should see similar results, honestly. Keselowski will again be one of the most elite drivers in the garage who is driving for one of the best teams in the sport today. He will have full sponsorship yet again, and Wolfe will be staying atop the pit box.

One of the only real changes for the team is atop the spotter’s stand.

Long-time Keselowski spotter, Joey Meier will be replaced by former AJ Allmendinger spotter Coleman Pressley. It may take a few races to adjust, but the duo should still be quite formidable.

I fully expect Keselowski to, at least, record two more wins and I expect him to be a very big threat to make it into the Championship 4 at Homestead.

Also, I expect Keselowski to have a much better track record at Daytona and Talladega in 2019 as he is usually one of the best drafters in the sport.

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