Team Penske Drivers
The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford wants to join an elite club.
Here are his thoughts on the possibility – and desire – to win his first Daytona 500.
“It’s definitely the one big box I don’t have checked,” said Brad Keselowski. “I’ve got the championship. I’ve won every other major but Daytona. The only other person that can claim that actively right now is Kevin Harvick and I want to join that club. It’s a big club to be in – to have all the majors and to have a championship. I know I’m right there and I want to make it happen and feel like I’ve done a lot of the right things to make it happen. I haven’t been perfect, but it’s certainly part of the source of frustration, for sure.”
Keselowski is coming off a career year with four victories and a ticket to contend for the 2020 title. The 2012 Cup Series champion was a Championship 4 round competitor in the 2020 season finale, finishing runner-up to Chase Elliott. The second-place finish in the standings marked his sixth top-ten overall finish in the eight years since his championship run. His best-ever showing in the race is third back in 2014. He’s had only two top-ten finishes in the 13 races at the track since – that does include a win in the 2016 summer-time 400-miler.
The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford says near misses are not frustrating.
“Obviously, I’ve had a good shot of winning the 500, I’d say three times I had a really good shot of winning it. In ’17, we run second. In ’18, we had the fastest car and we got caught up in that wreck at the end that I caused on accident, and last year we lost by a couple feet. You’re frustrated at the time, in the moment because you just lost the race, but looking back on it I’m not frustrated by it.
“I’ve looked at it as I’ve had a couple of really great opportunities to win the 500, what can I do better or different to give us a better shot at it again. That’s kind of how I look at it, but whether it’s something I did. I re-watch the race and I’m like, ‘Man, if I’m by myself in this situation again I should do this differently and it might have given us a better shot to win that race.’ That’s what I look at. I don’t really try to get frustrated by it. I just try to figure out ways to do things better in the moment if those situations come up again to give us a better shot at it.”
Blaney has certainly been close to claiming his first Daytona 500 victory. The 24-year old has finished runner-up twice in the last four years, including 2020. He led a dominating 118 of the 207 laps to finish seventh in 2018. And Blaney said he’s more encouraged than frustrated by the near-misses.
The driver of the No. 33 Team Penske Ford is taking his first shot at the Daytona 500.
“I think anyone who makes plans at superspeedways, do it because they’re nervous because there’s no way to prepare for these races,” said Austin Cindric. “There’s no way to prepare for those scenarios. Qualifying is significantly important for both of our opportunities to make it into the race, but also where we start in the Duels. I think we’ll play it as it goes. I’d be extremely unlucky if I didn’t have a Penske-affiliated car with me in the Duels, so that would be nice to have and nice to have teammates.
“If I get in the race, hopefully I can help those guys get stage points and try and fight for a race win and get a Penske car and a Ford into Victory Lane for the Daytona 500. There’s a lot of work to still do, but there are definitely a lot of different scenarios and a lot of things you have to prepare for and sometimes it will come down to the small details and hopefully it doesn’t have to come down to missing big wrecks and the things you’re accustomed to seeing in speedway racing, but you definitely have to be prepared for.”
Austin Cindric, the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, will be attempting to make his first Daytona 500. The Team Penske driver will be defending his 2020 Xfinity title when the year starts, but will be making several NASCAR Cup Series starts this season in anticipation of moving into the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford next year. The 22-year-old will drive the No. 33 Ford Mustang out of the Team Penske stable in the Daytona 500. He does not have a guaranteed starting position in the race and must race his way onto the grid with a good finish in the BlueGreen Vacations Duel 150s.
EDITOR’s NOTE: Check back for Joey Logano’s comments next week.