Brad Keselowski grabbed his first top-five finish of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with a fifth-place effort Sunday evening on the Daytona Road Course. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford claimed his best finish in two starts at the 3.61-mile layout and gained six positions in the Cup Series driver standings, moving up to 10th-place, 40 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
A fortunate turn of events in the closing laps of Stage 1 put him in position to score stage points. Keselowski was running just outside the top-10 when he locked up his front tires while racing Ross Chastain on lap 11 and he missed the frontstretch chicane. Keselowski pitted immediately for four tires and moments later the second caution waved, which allowed Keselowski to make up the lost distance. He restarted second when the race went green on lap 13 and finished fourth when the Stage 1 ended three laps later. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the call to pit for four tires during the stage caution and Keselowski restarted 15th on lap 19.
Any chance for a good finish looked dim in Stage 2. Keselowski was up to 11th-place when he missed the bus stop chicane on lap 26, which cost him three positions. He stayed out during the fourth caution and restarted in fourth position on lap 29, a strategic move by Bullins to save a set of tires for the second half of the race. Keselowski struggled on the restart with his older tires and was credited with a 28th-place finish when the stage ended on lap 34. Bullins made the call to pit for four tires during the stage caution and Keselowski restated 26th when the race went green on lap 37.
The third and final stage saw Keselowski rally from a spin on lap 41 to fight his way into contention late in the event. From there the driver of the No. 2 Ford Mustang steadily worked his way from 38th position through the field. Keselowski was up to 12th when he made his final stop under green on lap 55. Two laps later the sixth caution was displayed, and this time Bullins kept his driver on the track. Keselowski restarted sixth on lap 58 and survived two more cautions and each chaotic restart that followed to score a fifth-place finish.
“It was a front, back, front, back kind of race, but the Discount Tire team, we just didn’t give up and kept working on it,” said Keselowski. “Eventually, the race came to us. We caught some breaks for sure and made the most of it. It was just one of those never-give-up kind of races. We just fought and fought and fought. But, in the end, just a lot of perseverance, a lot of heart, a lot of will from the entire team and that put us in a good spot there at the end, so I tried to make the most of it.”