The 62nd annual Daytona 500 is right around the corner, and some of NASCAR's most successful drivers are still looking for their first wins in the Great American Race. One of those is 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, who has finished as high as third (2014). Keselowski has been in the NASCAR spotlight, and not for reasons he would prefer.
After a questionable blocking maneuver by fellow Team Penske driver Joey Logano in the exhibition Busch Clash led to a wreck that took Keselowski out of the race, he publicly expressed his frustration with his teammate, saying he "got wrecked for no reason." Fortunately, the two have settled their differences.
Keselowski spoke to The Big Lead about that the big weekend and his high hopes.
TBL: Brad, you've won races at Daytona in other NASCAR series. You've won the July race. You've won qualifying races and the Busch Clash. What kind of hole does it leave to not have won the Daytona 500?
BK: Well, there's a big difference between the races here in Daytona. I think the July race, you know, the season's in full swing, and certainly you still want to win it, but it's not the same as the first big race of the year, the Daytona 500. You have weeks and months to prepare for [the 500]. All those things sort of culminate in a different flow for the race weekend, for sure, between the two, and have resulted in different races for us as well.
TBL: Which year do you think was the closest you came to winning the 500?
BK: Without a doubt, 2014. We were in great position, I made one bad move at the end of the race that took away our opportunity to win it and it just didn't come together. We had a car that was pretty fast - I don't know if it was the fastest. Dale Jr. probably was, but we were right there with him and it just didn't quite come together.
TBL: 2020 will be Jimmie Johnson's final full-time season competing in NASCAR. What are your most vivid memories competing with him on the track?
BK: Just competing for the 2012 championship, for sure. That was good. I think he certainly has a spot in the history of this sport that will last forever, and with respect to that, when you can compete against somebody of that level and that caliber for a championship, it really means a lot.
TBL: Brad, you and your teammate Joey Logano have had a rough week. What is the dynamic of a team in NASCAR, when drivers are competing for themselves?
BK: It's difficult to explain all those dynamics. I can't tell you that I'm an expert on any of those things but I can tell you that with any team you see these multi-car teams but only one can park in Victory Lane. There's only one Victory Lane for one car, which isn't a bad thing. But that also means that there's an opportunity for those teams to work together and ensure greatness, and you hope to do that. It doesn't always work out, but sometimes it does, and that's a good thing.
TBL: Throughout the years, you've competed in and won races in lower divisions of NASCAR even while competing in the Cup Series on a full-time basis. Is there a reason for this?
BK: I like to race. I'm a race car driver, that's who I am. I don't like to be away from it if I don't have to be. (laughing) And if you're already at the racetrack, let's take advantage of it.