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Brad Keselowski’s Title Defense Falls the Way Others Have

December 15th, 2013 at 7:01 PM
By Mark Eddinger

Brad Keselowski burst onto the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series scene  with an amazing 2012 season culminating in him winning the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. During that season his Penske Racing team used Dodge as their manufacturer but decided part ways and switch to Ford for the beginning of the Generation 6 era.

'Brad Keselowski' photo (c) 2013, Marco Becerra - license:

Keselowski's title defense in 2013 did not go as planned as he and crew chief Paul Wolfe could not get things to click the way they did a season earlier.

In 2012 Keselowski posted five wins, 13 top fives, 23 top tens, 735 laps led, and had an average finish of 10.1. Compare that to 2013 where his production shrunk to one win, nine top fives, 16 top tens, 476 laps led, and an average finish of 14.9.

The win came in race 31 at Charlotte during the Chase. Unfortunately for Keselowski his first 26 races were poor enough to keep him from even being one of the 13 drivers that made the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In those first 26 races the No. 2 Penske team finished worse than 20th in 10 races.

Keselowski's struggles were similar to those that other drivers not named Jimmie Johnson have had when trying to defend the title in the Chase era. Kurt Busch won the 2004 championship and then finished tenth in points in 2005. Tony Stewart won the 2005 title and finished 11th in 2006. Stewart also won the championship in 2011 but finished ninth in 2012. Johnson is the only driver in the Chase era to prove he can successfully back up what he and his team did the year before. In 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 he defended the crown with success. His only falter to date was 2011 when he finished sixth.

Can Brad Keselowski and the Paul Wolfe led No. 2 Penske Racing Ford team return to contention in 2014? If the last six races of 2013 are indication the team was certainly headed in the right direction. The only blunder was a 29th place finish at the wild card track of Talladega. Other than that the performance was high with a win at Charlotte, a fourth at Martinsville, sixth place finishes at Texas and Homestead-Miami, and an 11th at Phoenix.

There will be a new aero package for the Gen-6 car in 2014 and it will also be a year into the move to Ford for the team. Competition is at an all time high in the Cup garage though so returning to the top may not be easy for Keselowski.

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Tags: Brad Keselowski, Ford, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Motorsports, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Paul Wolfe, Penske Racing, Tony Stewart

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