There’s no question it’s been a tough year for Brad Keselowski.
First came two penalties for mechanical violations with his No. 2 Ford in separate races that cost him 31 driver points in the Sprint Cup standings.
Had he not lost those points, it’s likely we’d be talking about Keselowski in the Chase for the Sprint Cup right now, attempting to defend last season’s championship.
Unfortunately, the 29-year-old Michigan native fell short of making this year’s Chase, relegating him to a one-and-done champion status.
Almost as bad, Keselowski still has yet to win a race this season. That’s a true oddity when compared to the five wins he claimed last season en route to his Cup title.
Numbers don’t lie
Even worse, look at Keselowski’s stats from last season compared to this season:
2012: Five wins, 13 top-fives, 23 top-10s, a 10.1 average finish per race.
2013: Zero wins, seven top-fives, 12 top-10s and a 16.0 average finish per race.
And that’s why Keselowski is not defending his championship this season.
Admittedly, it has to be tough to be Keselowski these days. Watch him on TV and you will likely see him with more of a sullen look than the almost trademark smiling face he flashed constantly in 2012.
Missing the Chase — and the way he did it — has to be weighing on Keselowski’s mind as he tries to salvage a season he’d rather forget, one year after a season that will forever be unforgettable.
But Keselowski finally got some good news recently when both he and primary sponsor Miller Lite signed contract extensions to stay together and with Penske Racing through the 2017 season.
Now that that’s out of the way, maybe we can see Sad Brad get back to Bad Brad next season — and I call him Bad in a good way.
Granted, last season was nothing short of a magical and miracle season for the kid from just outside Detroit. He quickly became a poster boy for young up-and-coming drivers, inspired them with his “if I can do it, anyone can” positive attitude, became the biggest social media magnet in the sport and, oh, yes, he could drive the wheels off a race car.
This season, not so much.
I have to give a lot of credit to team owner Roger Penske and other high-ranking officials of the organization who worked to get Keselowski signed, sealed and delivered for another four seasons.
Other owners may have let the defending champion go elsewhere. Need we forget about the first Chase winner in 2004, Kurt Busch?
Page 2 of 2 - Less than a year after winning it all, he was unceremoniously dumped two races early from Roush Racing when it became known he was going to, ironically enough in this case, Penske Racing the following season to replace legendary and eventual NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace in the infamous No. 2 “Blue Deuce.”
The Penske file
But Penske didn’t become the most successful team owner in motorsports for nothing. He saw something in Keselowski when he stole him away from Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports several years ago, and Keselowski has paid him back in spades for the belief Penske had in him.
Penske saw something in the way the young kid had a fire and a true blue-collar approach that not only attracted countless fans, but finally rewarded Penske with the first Cup championship in his ownership career after more than 30 years of fielding a NASCAR team.
That’s something that Wallace, Busch, Bobby Allison, Ryan Newman, David Stremme and even Jeremy Mayfield were never able to do.
Penske is above reproach when it comes to finding, judging and — most importantly — keeping talent, particularly young talent. He’s built more drivers’ careers than anyone else out there.
While Keselowski’s fans are disappointed at what happened to him this season, and erstwhile critics may say he just got lucky last season, the fact remains that Keselowski has a tremendous amount of talent that will shine again.