Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Brad Keselowski was involved in the first accident of the Daytona 500 on lap 32 but somehow managed to work his tattered car through the field and finished the day with a fourth-place finish. When the accident first occurred, most believed the damage would hamper the aerodynamic performance of the car.
In fact, immediately after the accident it appeared as if Keselowski wouldn't be able to contend, spinning his car again on lap 139 when Trevor Bayne, Carl Edwards and all three Front Row Motorsports cars were all involved in the second big accident of the day.
And yet, Keselowski, who had just pitted was able to restart up front and held on to his top-10 spot despite a nose piece that was dented and had tape stringing off the hood. Keselowski restarted on the front row alongside eventual winner Jimmie Johnson on the final restart on lap 195 and just wasn't able to close the deal from the bottom line over the final six laps.
"We got real fortunate because we caught a big break when the yellow came out and we had just pitted," Keselowski said. "That got us to the lead and then we caught a bad break when the yellow came out as we were battling with Jimmie.
"He was an inch in front of me when the yellow came out and that gave him the high line on the restart and there was nothing we could do. We weren't strong enough to hold our own there on the bottom... We wrecked about three times today and still had a shot at the win and I took it, we just came up short."
The defending Sprint Cup Series champion never questioned how he was going to get back to the front, he just said that knew he had to find a way to do it.
"You drive it," Keselowski said, referring to his car. "You don't ask, you just drive. You don't want to make excuses for not being successful -- you could do that or you can go out there and put it all on the line and try to win."
Ultimately, Keselowski doesn't blame the damage to his nose as the reason he didn't overtake Johnson. Instead it comes back to the lack of speed on the bottom and the inability to make passes under the current draft configuration. Johnson, Keselowski said, earned the right to choose the outside line by virtue of leading at the time of the caution and that decided the victory.
"The high lane just had all the speed," Keselowski said. "It doesn't mean we weren't trying. It just wouldn't go down there on the bottom and it made it real hard to pass. It wasn't for lack of effort. I would rather make that effort, and I did, but I kept going to the back.
"The only thing worse than not being able to make a pass, is being in the back. That is just the way it was today."