Some ins, some outs and some what-have-you:
Man, it feels good to type that again, it’s been so long since the ol’ column was dusted off.
But this week, with our guy Ken Willis on the road, I decided to “Enter Sandman” and head out of the bullpen to see if I couldn’t lock down a save for him. Now, let’s remember how to do it — coffee? Check. Position house key? Check.
Speaking of saving, I’ll spare you any Ross Chastain commentary. I can’t be the only one tired of Ross these days, right? About the only thing I’ve seen more in print lately than Chastain crashes are area football transfers and, yeah, I’ll leave that out too.
At the moment. Watch out.
But the truth is, Chastain’s weekly drama has overshadowed other great NASCAR stories this season.
‘I tried’: Keselowski remains strong despite ‘disappointing’ Daytona 500 history
THROUGH THE GEARS: Is Ross Chastain vs. Kyle Larson this generation’s Dale Earnhardt vs. Jeff Gordon? It’s not that far.
NASCAR QNA: North Wilkesboro, Ross Chastain is sharing the All Star Race spotlight this week
A prime example and something that hasn’t been mentioned nearly enough: Brad Keselowski made the best drive of his career. How’s that for a hot take? Take that, Stephen A.
Are the numbers backing that up? Absolutely not. But it’s also apples and brake rotors considering Keselowski spent 12 seasons at one of the sport’s premier rides at Team Penske before entering the waters of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing ownership. before last year.
But in a side-by-side comparison to his first season as a driver-owner in 2022, there’s certainly some numerical evidence to be found. Through 12 races last season, Keselowski had one top 10, one ninth-place finish in the Daytona 500. This year, he has six including three of the last four races. The average finish last year through 12 events? 20.1. This year, that’s down to 15.7.
Keselowski limped home for a 24th-Ending points in 2022, his worst mark since his homecoming of 25th in his first full-time season in 2010. Right now, he’s eighth, and I’ll bet you a Richard Petty collector’s knife most of you don’t know that.
I didn’t, until we discussed the top 10 surprises on this week’s “State of Florida” podcast. And it’s not just that Keselowski is there, it’s how he’s there. You’ll be hard-pressed to find his name in many headlines (mostly because Ross hasn’t gotten him yet…). There is a veteran, such as working steadily to become a car owner is likely to be reinforced if not necessary. Hey, it’s a lot harder to put your car in compromising situations when you’re the one paying the bill. Shoot, I was reluctant to change lanes on I-95 without first using my blinker, waving a hand out the window and muttering a quick Hail Mary. And I’m not catholic.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Keselowski was one of the hot shots, tearing up race cars, calling out competitors, admitting to being ‘buzzed’ on national television. Now 39 years old, it’s patience and a steady hand from Keselowski Aba, it almost reminds of the former driver of the No. 6 car, Mark Martin.
Among all the driver interviews I did before this year’s Daytona 500, I admired Keselowski as much as anyone. He’s always intelligent, always ready to speak his mind and I’d argue that he probably hasn’t gotten enough praise and respect since he took a few years ago. He could have continued to fight for titles for years at that Penske ride.
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Instead, he chose to try and make his own way, to challenge himself instead of resting on accolades, and leading, he made a real inroads in doing so. Along with teammate Chris Buescher, the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing stable has become more of a fixture at the front of the field and who knows how far the team will progress.
So, while Kevin Harvick is on his retirement tour, Denny Hamlin is podcasting and pitching tournaments and Kyle Larson and Chastain are playing catch up, maximizing Keselowski’s speed and solid finish .
Even though he didn’t look back.
Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain in the Final Four
While listening to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast. this week, I realized that our Denny Hamlin NASCAR tournament recaps are a week ahead of where most of the national syndications are following as well.
But like Chastain between Turns 1 and 2 on Sunday at Darlington, there’s no going back now. (Hey, I have to get in at least one!)
For our purposes, we dropped to the Final Four and what a star-studded semifinal we had. On one side of the bracket, No. 9 that Denny Hamlin will go up against the No. 13 William Byron. On the other side, it’s second-seeded Chastain against No. 30 Chase Elliott.
Of course, the tournament gets a week off for the All Star Race with the competition picking back up for the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. For what it’s worth, which is pretty much Chastain’s apology these days, I’ll take Denny and Wreck-It Ross to advance to the finals.
OK, I’m really done now. Oaths.
Kevin Harvick driving the No. 29, for the last time
Yes, last weekend’s Throwback Weekend was at Darlington, but Harvick brought it to North Wilkesboro where he will drive the No. 29 car last time.
Harvick sold 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 replaced Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing after his tragic death at Daytona in 2001. Harvick drives the No. . 29 car for 13 years and resurrecting the number one last time was the idea he brought to Childress, who quickly gave his OK.
“He said, ‘Kevin, you can do whatever you want. Do whatever you want. You’re good for RCR, and we want to work with you to make it happen,'” Harvick said via news release. “Getting that car back on the racetrack is something we all thought would never happen. again. But with Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing teaming up and making my crazy idea work and seeing the first win paint scheme on the 29 and having it at the North Wilkesboro racetrack was something that I think we’re 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.
Is Throwback Weekend running? Denny Hamlin believes
Eventually, all good things must come to an end.
No, I’m not talking about this column, I’m talking about Darlington’s Throwback Weekend schtick. At least, that’s what Hamlin stated on his podcast this week.
“Has it run yet? asked Hamlin. “I just feel, the paint scheme of everything is from a different era, I don’t even know half the cars, all this makes me more confused – as a race driver I don’t know who I am. frickin’ racing against.
“Whose car is this and who are they going to bring back? I’ve never heard of them … I don’t know. it’s lost its luster.”
It turns out that anything gets old after a while. Including the Chastain drama and probably, for now, this piece.
With that in mind, I return to the ‘pen.
This article originally appeared in The Daytona Beach News-Journal: NASCAR: Brad Keselowski is quietly making the best drive of his career