HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Though Brad Keselowski was within sight of a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he wasn’t able to capture the ultimate prize and instead sounded a warning regarding manufacturer power after all was said and done.
Keselowski’s incredible run to the Championship 4 ended with a seventh-place finish on-track and a fourth-place finish in the season standings, all after a season in which he repeatedly stressed that Toyota had a competitive advantage over the remainder of the field.
His words would have seemed to be proven true in the Ford EcoBoost 400, as Martin Truex Jr. scored the victory and captured his first Cup Series title, while Kyle Busch finished second in a race where Toyotas held down the top-four running positions at several points during the first half.
It simply came down to speed, and Keselowski said his team just “didn’t have enough” in the race when it mattered.
“This was a hard-fought battle on a long night, but it’s not the result we wanted,” Keselowski said. “Of course the result you want is to win the race and win the championship, but our effort was phenomenal and I was really proud of our group for everything they put into that, trying to be the best we could with this package. We just weren’t quite best in class tonight.”
While he was happy with the effort his team put forward, Keselowski didn’t hold back when asked about Toyota’s dominance in the season-finale, reiterating the same frustrations he had put forward earlier this season.
Keselowski turned the clock back to Daytona in February, which he said set the scene for the entire year, and also compared the situation to Formula 1 in terms of “constructor wars.”
“When that car (the Toyota) rolled out at Daytona, and we all got to see it for the first time, I think there was two reactions — one, we couldn’t believe NASCAR approved it; and two, we were impressed by the design team over there. With that said, I don’t think anyone (else) ever really had a shot this year the second that thing got put on the race track and approved.”
“It kind of felt like F1, where you had one car that made it through the gates heads and tails above everyone and your hands are tied because you’re not allowed to do anything to the cars in those categories that NASCAR approves to really catch up.”
Keselowski won three races during the year and finished inside the top five 15 times in 36 races.
He made a run to the finale by scoring seven top-10s in the playoffs, including a victory to advance at Talladega, but it was clear that his Penske team didn’t have the speed that the Toyota teams did at the 1.5-mile ovals that populated the majority of the playoffs.
“We tried everything we could throw at them with strategies and what-not, and it seemed to work out a little bit where we forced everybody’s hands a couple times and put them in some uncomfortable spots, but in the end we just didn’t have enough speed to really contend with those guys,” Keselowski admitted.
“Really nobody (had enough speed) if you look at it. But we put the effort out there, and I’m proud of that.”
Leaving the finale, Keselowski is just hoping the Fords get some type of performance help going into next year.
If not, he fears it’s going to be a long, hard season for the Blue Ovals in 2018.
“As to what will happen for 2018 … I would assume that Chevrolet will be allowed to design a car the same way that Toyota was for this one, but Ford doesn’t have any current plans for that.”
“If that’s the case, we’re going to take a drubbing next year, so we’ll have to see.”
About the Writer
Souza is Race Chaser Online’s New England motorsports insider, covering everything from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and the PASS North Super Late Models.
When not writing, Souza works at the Seekonk Speedway as the track’s Friday night public address announcer. Souza also works for Area Auto Racing News, based in Trenton, N.J. and is a freelance reporter for NASCAR Home Tracks, covering the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
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