Brad Keselowski where have you gone? Just last year you were our Sprint Cup Champion, taking big swigs from that GIANT Miller Lite, slightly slurring your words on those live interviews, and reminding the world what NASCAR was like without Jimmie Johnson as our champion. Where did you go?
There have been hundreds of reasons why Keselowski has fallen out of the Chase, or even reasonable contention. Some say “blame Brad”. Maybe he lost the edge after winning his championship. The dreaded “Championship Letdown.” After watching Keselowski’s performance at the Iowa Speedway first hand. That is definitely not the case. Not only did Keselowski overcome a pit road violation putting him at the end of the longest line, he was within seconds of being lapped by mid race dominator Austin Dillion when a fortuitous caution waved. Keselowski got back up on the wheel and put on a show in moving to the front to get the win. He’s still hungry for every trophy he can get.
“Maybe his luck just ran out.” Although this is the hardest to quantify, this seems to be one of the prevailing thoughts as to the Keselowski bad streak. Yes, while it is true that you need “good luck” or momentum to get to the top of the heap. Top teams like those at Penske Racing should be able to overcome bad luck and salvage decent finishes. Look no farther than Jimmie Johnson (with his properly lodged Horseshoe in tow) and his finish at Pocono. Johnson blew a tire, hit the wall, finished 13th. That’s how you win championships.
“The 2 team never recovered after Paul Wolfe’s suspension.” Now we may be on to something. I believe this is part one of why the 2 team has struggled so much for a majority of the season, organizational structure at Penske Racing. The comparison must be made to Hendrick Motorsports as they are truly the Standard if you claim to be a championship team. Chad Knaus goes down? No problem, they next in line steps in and the beat goes on. Do I need to remind you that Jimmie Johnson has 2 Daytona 500 wins, but Chad Knaus only has 1? Penske just does not seem to have the depth that other top teams have, they have incredible talent behind the wheel, on the pit box, everywhere. What they seem to be lacking is depth. Plus it must be mentioned that Keselowski may have been the biggest benefactor from AJ Allmendinger’s suspension in 2012. After July 7, 2012 all of the resources from not only Penske, but also Dodge realistically went to the 2 team. Which leads to part two of why this season has fallen apart for Brad Keselowski…
“The switch to Ford killed the 2 team.” AND WE HAVE A WINNER! Strangely this seems to be getting the least attention of any possible reason for the teams struggles. Quick, without looking, name the top three Ford Racing Drivers. By any basic metric you can look at Keselowski is going to qualify for that list, and most are calling his season a failure to this point. Not only did Penske Racing switch from Dodge to Ford, but with the arrival of the Gen-6 car there were no previous notes for them to work from. They couldn’t ask Jack Roush for help, there was no “base” setup to start with, it was a clean slate. Ford Racing has struggled the most with the transition to the Gen-6, and Keselowski is just one of many who have taken the hit. Both Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle have been very vocal of their displeasure with the new Fords. So much so we may see Biffle on a new team in 2015.
Obviously at this point, Jimmie Johnson is the odds on favorite to win his 6th championship. However, we all know that when the Chase starts, anything can happen. A hot driver (think Stewart in 2011) can take it all, or maybe it will just be the last driver standing. There is still time for Brad Keselowski and his team to turn it around. Now go check the stats, Keselowski is up to 8th in points after the mayhem that was Watkins Glen. Maybe their luck has finally started to change, and maybe the Ford Engineers will find the speed and handling they need, or maybe they miss the Chase. Keselowski has always been a great finisher, and with the misfortune of some of those in front of him, he has a chance to finish strong and make everyone forget about this four month swoon.