Hammond: ‘Bad’ Brad is bound to be good again in 2014

Brad Keselowski won just one race last season and missed the Chase after winning the Sprint Cup title in 2012.

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for Texas Motor Spe

Obviously, one of the most disappointing things in the 2013 season was the struggles of our defending champion, Brad Keselowski, and his No. 2 team. The struggles were so great that they didn’t even make the Chase and get a chance to attempt to defend their 2012 crown. I don’t see that happening again this season.

I am a big fan of Brad but I think he learned a painful lesson that being the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is apples and oranges when compared to being the Nationwide Series champion. You are pulled in so many more directions that it takes focus off your team and your car. Additionally, I also point to Texas in the spring, when they were busted for a rules violation, as the momentum killer for that group.

They really weren’t that bad overall up to that point, but then they ran into a brick wall and never seemed to recover. Yes, his teammate Joey Logano made the Chase, but Brad didn’t. Joey wasn’t our defending champion. Joey didn’t have all the appearances and media responsibilities that Brad, as champion, had. The other thing you can’€™t ignore is that Brad got himself in trouble right at the start of the season with his comments on how the sport was being run, in his USA Today article. It seemed to set the tone for how his season was going to go. It just seemed the team collectively was thrown off its game, and it really wasn’t until late in the season when you finally saw them begin to turn a corner.

Brad Keselowski is focused on returning to his winning ways in the coming season.

Joey was really driven to prove he deserved to be in that Penske car. Joey got the well-earned feeling of success this past season. There’s nothing keeping him from running up front week in and week out in 2014, either. The reality is last season, Joey didn’t have a quarter of the distractions and obstacles that Brad faced last year.

Brad is a very motivated and driven person. The reality is 2013 was a drama-filled season for the No. 2 team that culminated with them missing the Chase. That really was a bitter pill for Brad, car owner Roger Penske and everyone associated with the No. 2 to swallow. It’s my belief that, collectively, they will all be laser-locked on one thing and will be a force to be reckoned with this season.