Throughout the Chase, Brad Keselowski has shown he will do whatever it takes to advance to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He rose to the occasion and won his way into the Elimination Round at Talladega Superspeedway, and to keep his title hopes alive he would have to do the same Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Entering the day seventh in the Chase standings, 17 points out of the lead, Keselowski was in a must-win situation.
However, the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford had little for race winner Kevin Harvick, who dominated Sunday’s race leading 264 of the 312 laps.
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By scoring the win, Harvick automatically locked himself into the Championship 4, while Keselowski brought his car home in the fourth spot, behind Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.
As a result, Keselowski ended the day where he started in the Chase standings, seventh, seven points out of fourth and no longer in title contention. While Keselowski missed the cut, his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano was one of the four drivers to advance to the final four, joining Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Harvick.
"We were just a little bit short," said Keselowski. "Kevin was really, really strong all day long. We just weren’t strong enough to win. We were strong enough to run second or third, and ended up fourth. A lot to be proud of, just not enough."
Keselowski has consistently had one of the strongest cars all season long, scoring a series-high six wins and being a factor week-in and week-out. Yet when it mattered most Sunday, Keselowski could not get the job done and advance into the Championship 4.
Despite being strong all season long, Keselowski’s title hopes took a huge hit at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago when a broken rear gear led to a wreck and 31st-place finish in the first of the three races of the Eliminator Round. He battled back to finish third at Texas a week ago, but the gap to overcome — and inability to get the clinching win as he did one round earlier — proved to be too much for the 2012 Sprint Cup champion to overcome.
"I’m obviously a little disappointed," he said. "I’m not disappointed with the effort, just disappointed it didn’t work out. We just couldn’t overcome the Martinsville hurdle. We had a decent day, but we needed a win to overcome the week we had at Martinsville where we broke the gear. We just weren’t quite fast enough to pull that off the last two weeks and that’s what it was going to take.
"It’s been a good effort. It’s been a great year. It’s nothing to hang our head on. We controlled the things we could control for the most part and that’s just how this deal works."
Keselowski ruffled some feathers along the way throughout this Chase — most notably those of Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth at Charlotte in the Contender Round and Jeff Gordon last week at Texas. But Sunday at Phoenix, he was able to get through the race without any issues or retaliation.
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