Daytona crash ends Keselowski’s playoff hopes

For the first time in nine years, Brad Keselowski won’t be in the championship when the NASCAR playoffs begin.

Keselowski was eliminated from contention Sunday at Daytona in the regular season finale when he was picked up in a multi-car accident on lap 31. The only way to make it to the postseason for Keselowski and his No. 6 RKF Racing team was win the race.

“It’s frustrating, but every time your season comes down to one race, you have a lot more at stake than just that one race,” Keselowski said. “Our team put a lot of effort into preparing this car. They brought a great car, so it hurt me that we didn’t get a chance to show it off.”

A former Daytona winner, Keselowski had felt enough of his Ford in less than one stage of competition to be sure he could have contended for the win. Keselowski is winless in his first year with his new team and was sitting 27th in the overall championship standings at the start of the day.

“We were pretty good,” Keselowski said. “We had a chance to do it today and we never had a chance to show it.”

The crash was sparked by accordion-spin contact between Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney in the inside lane of Turn 2. A loss of momentum seemed to slow Jones, who was tagged by Hamlin as Blaney pushed him.

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Keselowski, running along the outside along the wall, had nowhere to go when Christopher Bell and Blaney returned to the track. A total of six cars were involved.

“Someone crashed in front of me,” Keselowski said. “I’m not really sure what exactly happened, but there was just a bunch of cars crashing in front of me. He had nowhere to go and couldn’t slow down in time, so I hate him for our team. We had a really fast racing car.”

2012 series champion Keselowski had made the playoffs every year since the elimination format began (2014). He made Championship 4 appearances in 2017 and 2020, finishing second in the championship in 2020.

Is it weird that Keselowski isn’t in championship mode to finish the year?

“I’m not thinking of it that way,” he said. “I’m just focused on getting better with our own team every day.”

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