NASCAR driver loses key playoff requirement

Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Brad Keselowski’s disappointing 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season continued at Darlington Raceway, where he hit a new low with RFK Racing.

Aside from a victory in his Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying race for the season-opening Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski’s first NASCAR Cup Series season with RFK Racing has been nothing shy of a disaster.

Keselowski led the most laps in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, but he had to settle for ninth place. Since then, he hasn’t recorded a single top 10 finish in 11 starts.

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The worst part of the season for Keselowski and the #6 Ford came after his 12th place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, when a teardown inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center revealed a violation that resulted in a massive 100-point penalty.

This effectively put Keselowski in a must-win situation to get into the playoffs. Through 12 races, even without the penalty, his point total would only be good for 19th place in the point standings, and it would place him a considerable 34 points below the cut line in a car that hasn’t really been all that competitive.

But even with a win, Keselowski would need to be in the top 30 in the point standings for it to count toward playoff eligibility.

The 100-point penalty dropped him all the way to 35th place. He had gotten himself back into the top 30 following the Easter Sunday dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but following Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway, the third race since then, he has dropped back out.

This race produced his first DNF of the 2022 season, and he was officially scored in 34th place, his worst finish with RFK Racing by seven positions.

Keselowski currently sits in 31st place in the point standings, eight points behind Spire Motorsports’ Corey LaJoie for 30th. The only full-time driver below him is Rick Ware Racing’s Cody Ware.

With that being said, there is little doubt that this will be a temporary setback (though we said that once before, and yet here he is again).

He should be able to get back into the top 30 before the regular season ends, and a win would practically ensure that he does so.

Even with three straight finishes of 20th place or worse, he has still averaged 21.08 points per race this year, which is considerably more than LaJoie’s average of 13.42.

But even with a win, there is no guarantee that he would get into the playoffs. With 10 winners in the season’s first 12 races, there is a very real chance that the regular season could see more than 16 different winners. Just seven more would have to emerge in the regular season’s final 14 races to make that happen.

In the event of more than 16 different winners, the multi-race winners would all be locked in, but the tiebreaker among single-race winners would become points.

Keselowski’s situation points-wise isn’t ideal, as he will likely be one of the lowest winners, if not the lowest winner, on points if he does manage to win before the regular season ends.

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Keselowski hasn’t had a winless season since 2011, and he hasn’t failed to qualify for the playoffs since 2013. But both of those streaks could very well come to an end this year, based on how things have been going in year one of his post-Team Penske career.