A few extras, a few outs, and a few more things to have:
Oh man, I felt so relieved to write that again, it’s been way too long since my ol’ column was dusted off.
But this week with our man Ken Willis On the road, I decided to shoot Enter Sandman and trot out of the barn to see if I couldn’t stand him. Now, let’s remember how we do this – coffee? check. Home key position? check.
Speaking of saves, I’ll spare you any feedback for Ross Chastain. I can’t be the only one who has it Ross is tired at this point, right? About the one thing I’ve mentioned in print more recently than Chastain’s accidents Football transfer area And yeah, I’ll leave that alone, too.
for now. Stay tuned.
But the truth is, Chastain’s weekly drama has overshadowed some of NASCAR’s other great stories this season.
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Prime example and something that isn’t talked about enough: Brad Keselowski doing the best driving of his career. How’s that for a hot take? Take that, Stephen A.
Do the numbers support that? Not real. But it’s also apples and brake rotors considering Keselowski spent 12 seasons in one of Team Penske’s premier sports before venturing into property waters with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing prior to last year.
But in a side-by-side comparison with his first season as driver-owner in 2022, there’s certainly some numerical evidence to be found. Through 12 races last season, Keselowski was a Top 10 finisher, finishing 9th in the Daytona 500. This year, he has six finishes including three in the last four races. Average last year finishes through 12 events? 20.1. This year, that’s down to 15.7.
Keselowski lame home to 24yLast in points in 2022, his worst mark since coming home at 25y In his first full-time season in 2010. Currently, he’s eighth, and I’ll bet you Richard Petty’s collegiate knife most of you don’t know that.
I didn’t until we discussed the surprises in the top 10 On the Florida State podcast this week. And not only is Keselowski there, he’s out there. You’d be hard-pressed to find his name in so many addresses (largely because Ross didn’t get to it… yet). There is a seasoned and hands-on fortitude that the owner of the vehicle is likely to have enhanced if not necessary. Hey, it’s very difficult to put your car into settlement when you’re the one footing the bill. Shoot, I hesitate to change lanes on I-95 without first using a flash, wave a hand out the window and quickly mumble Hail Mary. And I’m not even Catholic.
It wasn’t long ago that Keselowski seemed to be a hotshot, shredding race cars, calling out competitors, and being admitted to being a “hoot” on national television. Now 39, it’s Keselowski’s patience and steady hand why, almost reminiscent of former No. 6 driver Mark Martin.
Of all the driver interviews I did in the run up to this year’s Daytona 500 conferenceI was influenced by Keselowski as much as anyone else. He was always smart, always willing to speak his mind, and I would argue he probably didn’t get enough praise and respect for the chance he took two years ago. He could have kept competing for titles for years on that Penske ride.
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Instead, he chooses to try and make his own way, to challenge himself rather than rest on his laurels, and command attention, he’s making real inroads in doing so. Along with teammate Chris Boescher, the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing stable is becoming more and more a fixture at the front of the field and who knows how far the team’s progression can take.
So while Kevin Harvick is on his retirement tour, Denny Hamlin is doing the podcasts and championships, Kyle Larson and Chastain are playing the sprinters, Keselowski is maximizing speed and turning into solid ends.
Even if he hasn’t caught the eye yet.
Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Chase Elliott, and Ross Chastain in the Final Four
While listening to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. podcast. This week, I realized we were a week ahead in our Denny Hamlin NASCAR course summaries compared to where most national syndicates also track.
But like Chastain in the middle of Turns 1 and 2 on Sunday at Darlington, there’s no turning back now. (Hey, I had to at least have one!)
For our purposes, we’ve made it to the Final Four and what a star-studded Semi-Final we have. On one side of the bracket, No. 9 Denny Hamlin will face No. 13 William Byron. On the other hand, it is the 2nd seed Chastain against 30th seed Chase Elliott.
Of course, the championship will have a week off for the All Star Race as the competition returns to the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. For what it’s worth, an apology from Chastain these days, I’ll take Denny and Wreck-It Ross to advance to the finals.
Well, I’m really done now. I swear.
Kevin Harvick drives the No. 29, for the last time
Yes, Throwback Weekend was last week at Darlington, but Harvick is bringing it to North Wilkesboro where he will be driving the No. 29 for the last time.
Harvick replaces the No. 4 for the number he started with and will carry the classic white and red colors he began his career with when he took over for Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing after his tragic death at Daytona in 2001. Harvick drove the No. 29 for 13 years and revived the number one last time. It was an idea he took to Childress, who quickly gave his approval.
“He said, Kevin, you can have whatever you want. Do whatever you want. You’ve been great for RCR, and we’d love to work with you guys to find out,” Harvick said via press release. “To be able to get that car back on the racetrack is something we all thought would never happen again. But with Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing working together and making my crazy idea work and being able to see the first paint scheme to win the 29 and make it to the track Racing at North Wilkesboro is something I think we are all excited about. I know the fans are excited, but for us, it’s an honor and a privilege to drive it one last time.”
Has the rebound weekend run its course? Denny Hamlin thinks so
Finally, all good things must come to an end.
No, I’m not talking about this column, I’m talking about your weekend schtick in Darlington. At least, that’s what Hamlin expressed on his podcast this week.
“Has this run its course? Has the regression run its course?” Hamlin wondered. “I just feel like everyone’s paint scheme is from a different era, I don’t even recognize half the cars, all it does is make me even more confused – as a race driver I don’t even know who I’m racing frickin’ against.
“Who is this car and who are they returning to? I’ve never heard of them… I don’t know. Everyone was bought like this the first couple of years, even the crew members were faked. I just feel like it’s lost its luster.”
It turns out that anything gets old after a while. Including Chastain’s drama and potentially, for now, this piece.
With that in mind, I’m going back to the pen.
This article originally appeared in the Daytona Beach News-Journal: NASCAR: Brad Keselowski is quietly doing the best drive of his career