Brad Keselowski says "the time is now" to win the Daytona 500

Jim Utter

Keselowski has won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship but until last season had not won what many consider any of the “major” races on the schedule.

In 2018, he picked up two – winning at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C.

The biggest one – the Daytona 500 – still remains but Keselowski has had opportunities in the race that have done nothing but further fuel his passion to claim a victory.

“Opportunities are in front of us. I feel like if I could win the Daytona 500, it would be the biggest win of my career. I’m ready to do it,” Keselowski said. “I still have a good understanding of what it’s going to take to do it.

“It’s just a matter of kind of putting the whole race together from my perspective, from the team’s perspective as well, then not having any bad luck. I feel like the car is there, the team is there, I’m there.

“We’re all ready to win this race. Hopefully the time is now this year in 2019.”

Keselowski, 35, took his first step in the process of competing in this year’s event by qualifying ninth-fastest during Sunday’s time trials which locked in the front row for the race.

Thursday night’s duel qualifying races will determine the final starting order in the race for everyone but the front row.

“We thought all along (the Mustang) was going to be really competitive and I think it hasn’t missed a beat from testing (last month) to now,” Keselowski said. “We’re pretty excited about it.  I think it’s a pretty good upgrade.”

Asked about his strategy for the qualifying race, Keselowski said simply: “To win the race. Nothing else matters.”

Many of NASCAR’s top stars have failed to win the Daytona 500, or took an agonizingly long time before earning their first trip to Victory Lane. Superspeedway races are the most unpredictable on the schedule, which lends to the difficulty in securing a win.

“I feel like the Daytona 500 is one of those races, a lot of restrictor plate races are this way in my mind, one of those races where one year it takes smarts and great execution, and one year it takes a lot of luck,” Keselowski said. “It seems to rotate back and forth.

“I went back and watched a lot of film. Joey Logano won the race two or three years ago, 2015, and same thing with Denny Hamlin. They made smart and courageous moves to win the race. They really, really earned it.

“Then I’ve seen other races, not to pick on anybody, where I would say that’s not the case. Someone was lucky enough to be running at the end of the day. The 500 kind of fell into their laps. That can be really frustrating when you feel like you’ve done everything right (but) the luck side is not in your favor.”

Even while the results might seem to overwhelm the desire – Keselowski has wrecked out of his last four races at Daytona – the quest to win the Cup series’ most prestigious race never really goes away.

“You got to get back up on the horse and ride. I feel like a number of the opportunities we’ve had to win fell through our hands and there’s nothing we could have done differently,” he said.

“We go back there, we keep our hope, we do all the right things and control all the things we can control and know that will give us our best chance of winning.”

From the editor, also read:

Full schedule for 2019 Daytona Speedweeks

What to Read Next