Last Sunday’s final lap of the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 was a perfect storm. You had two teammates running 1-2. Both said just how badly that they wanted to get a Daytona 500 triumph — a second for Joey Logano and a first for Brad Keselowski.
Before we get to what Logano said on Friday, ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the Daytona International Speedway road course, lets first rewind to what happened during the Busch Clash last year to set the scene. The two are good friends and Keselowski is a big reason as to why Logano landed at Team Penske back in 2013. But, the Clash last year is the spot you can circle as to why there’s been some bad blood between the two lately and you can see why from Keselowski’s side, he feels the way that he does.
With 10 laps remaining, Logano, moved to block Kyle Busch down the banking in Turn 3 of the 2020 Busch Clash. The duo would spark a six car crash which collected Keselowski when he had no where to go.
“Just got wrecked for no reason,” Keselowski told reporters after the crash during last year’s Clash. ” … just dumb moves being thrown out there. Guys that don’t know what they’re doing, so they throw crazy-ass blocks.
“It’s just ridiculous. We shouldn’t be wrecking all these cars. I’m not Tony Stewart. I’m not as smart as he is and he could say it a lot better than I could, but this is just dumb.”
Keselowski has been adamant and staunchly against blocking on superspeedway’s. He punted William Byron in practice for the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 to send a message. Well, Logano blocked in the Clash and Keselowski was collected. Last Sunday, Logano blocked Keselowski’s run and instead of a Penske 1-2 finish for the 2021 Daytona 500, both were wrecked.
“Don’t feel like I made a mistake but can’t drive everybody’s else car. Frustrating,” Keselowski said following the Daytona 500.
That’s part as to why we’re here today in which Logano said that the two haven’t spoken yet in regards to how last Sunday’s Daytona 500 ended. As we sit here five days later, the two went from being 1-2 heading into Turn 3 to crashing out and giving the win to Michael McDowell. Both have differing views of how the incident transpired. Neither have discussed them together.
“When you’re married to somebody, you have to figure it out,” Logano said. “You’re married. You don’t just leave. You get married, it’s supposed to be forever. And so, when you have conflict or differences of opinion, you have to talk about it. You can’t just roll it up under the rug. It’s not going to work. It’s not healthy. It’s kind of the situation here.
“I will be forced, and he will be forced to work with me. We’re still teammates. We will have to figure this out. We may not have to agree on everything, but we at least have to find a way to move forward, and that is going to be the approach we need to do because going back to the 400 men and women who work at Team Penske, we owe it to them to figure this out and we will fix it. It’s fine. Like I said, you can look at this thing three different ways, and there are going to be six different opinions on how the last few laps went, and depending on what seat you’re in, you would pick differently.”
Logano said that they’d talk this weekend ahead of Sunday’s second event of the season. He feels like they owe it to the 400 Team Penske employees who could be asking where their Daytona 500 bonus is. They need to figure this out together and move forward without having this nagging crash always in the back of their minds.
As to why they haven’t spoken yet, five days later, Logano said that it’s best to cool your jets before meeting about it. You don’t want to meet and let things boil over still and say things you don’t mean and let this carry on further.
So, how did we get here? How did two of the greats of the sport, teammates at that, wreck each other on the last lap while battling for the win? Before we get break down the last lap, you first have to next go back to what each said during their respective media days ahead of Speedweeks at that to set that scene.
The Clash scene was Act I. What each said during Media Day was Act II.
“You typically go to Daytona and even Talladega expecting to crash,” said Keselowski earlier this month. “The odds are more favorable for carnage than a win.”
That’s why the aggression really ramps up in the final laps. You have to. There’s too much at stake. That played a huge role into this.
“The only race that’s bigger than this is the championship race and that’s only for four cars,” said Logano in late January. “This is the biggest race for 40 cars. Everyone is out there racing extremely hard towards the end of the race.
“The pushing and shoving becomes very aggressive which that has been consistent over the years but with the rules package change, especially with the spoiler on the back of it, we’ve seen over the past couple of years that the shoving has become really aggressive and the blocks have been harder to pull off successfully,” Logano continued. “The runs are bigger. That’s all a recipe for disaster for the end of these things. The key is to be up towards the front when it matters the most.
“At the end of the race, it’s kind of like the championship. No one remembers who finished second. No one knows who finishes second in the Daytona 500 last year. That’s just what this race is about.”
You have a hungry Keselowski. Remember, he said that if you’re there at the end, you have to go for it. With respects that you’re more likely to get caught up in a crash, if you have a shot to win in the closing laps, you have to be overly aggressive. Combine that with him needing this win, you get the perfect storm.
“I’m one crown jewel away from having them all which is really cool and special and means a lot to me personally,” Keselowski said on the same zoom call last month as Logano. “That’s definitely on that list to get Daytona to come together and not get wrecked.”
You have them saying and knowing this. They’re 1-2. One lap to go. 2 turns left. They each know that if they want to win, they have to be aggressive.
So, lets get into how the crash transpired. You have to go back to 2 laps-to-go as to the starting point.
Keselowski, backed up off Kevin Harvick’s bumper with two to go to get some drafting help from behind via McDowell. It’s a technique drivers use to make passes on superspeedway’s. It worked. Keselowski, was now in second. With the final lap coming and a Daytona 500 win in his grasps, he had to do the same move on his teammate in Logano.
Keselowski, let Logano, just like he did Harvick, get far out there off Turn 2 and was hoping to use a push by McDowell again to get him his first Daytona 500 triumph.
“I had a big run down the backstretch,” Keselowski said. “Went to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and ended up really bad.”
McDowell, said that he was going to help Keselowski there until the crash occurred.
“My plan was to stick to (Keselowski),” McDowell said. “I knew he would go for a race-winning move and my plan was to let him make that move and then coming off of (Turn) 4 try to get to his outside or inside. I knew I didn’t want to make my move too early, so I was committed to (Keselowski’s) bumper and when he made the move, the hole opened up.
“It’s just unbelievable.”
Logano, said he saw the strategy Keselowski was going and he was doing it back. He didn’t want Keselowski to keep backing up, so he was doing it too.
“Once I saw Brad lay back and shuffle the 4 [Kevin Harvick] out, I said, ‘OK, this game’s about to change, this isn’t going the way I expected it to,’ and I knew things were going to be a little different and that’s what kind of developed into the last few laps,” Logano said. “Cars were laying back so much trying to form runs; I’m backing up trying to keep everyone tight behind and not get so far out because … you just know there is just so much energy being built up, everyone is going to be bumper to bumper. You saw that all come to fruition when we went down the back straightaway and everyone opened it up — you saw some cars go to the bottom, and that top lane had five cars pushing each other. There’s going to be a few runs coming at you that way.
“(Keselowski) kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of (McDowell) and it ended up being a really big run coming at me and it seemed like we all just collided in one spot.”
Combine all three and you get what you saw — a last crash.
The Monday morning quarterback says that Logano shouldn’t have blocked Keselowski’s move and just let the two run side-by-side to ensure a Penske driver wins the race. Logano felt like McDowell’s pushing of Keselowski was a big reason as to why they all crashed but there’s nothing either of them could have done differently at the time. It’s a 200 mph split second decision to win the Daytona 500. What are you supposed to do?
“I’m up in the mirror, I’m watching this all develop behind me, and when the 34 and the 2 hook up, they start coming at me with a run,” Logano explained. “I throw a mild block, but when Brad moves to the left to pass me, that gets the 34 off-center on his bumper, and these cars are very unstable when they’re getting pushed.”
All three said that they were in the perfect position for them heading to the checkered flag and that this was just speedway racing.