No miracle for Keselowski, who misses out on post-season

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have a new champion in 2013.

Brad Keselowski led a race-high 142 laps on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway, but ultimately faded to a disappointing 17th-place result on a night where he needed to win in order to have any hope of a spot in the Chase.

“We were pretty good at the start and led a lot of laps…But we just weren’t strong enough to really stay up there,” Keselowski said. “We needed clean air to really run well and once we lost that, we just weren’t strong enough.”

Saturday may well have been a microcosm of Keselowski’s season, which has seen him show blazing speed at times but also extended periods of inconsistency as well.

After taking the lead twice for short periods in the opening stages, Keselowski settled in for a longer run up front after passing Jamie McMurray for the point following a restart at Lap 143.

He would repeatedly lose and regain the lead as the race went across the halfway mark, but was still running second with 100 laps to go in the 400-lap event. Then, it seemed his car began to get away from him as he started to slip down the running order.

A run-in with Kevin Harvick caused Keselowski to declare over his team’s radio that he would “use the [expletive] out of the 29 [Harvick]” once he got new tires. But by the time he got those fresh Goodyears during a stop with 60 laps left, he had already lost critical track position.

“That is just the way our cars have been this year,” he said. “They haven’t been good enough and we haven’t executed as well as we needed to. We have work to do.

“At the end of the day, the thing about points is it is the best measuring stick in sports. You know who deserves to be where because the results speak for themselves. We didn’t have enough results to get where we needed to be.”

Keselowski has now become the second defending champion to miss out on the Chase the following season since its inception in 2004. It will be interesting to see how much support he’ll give Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano, who did manage to clinch a Chase berth in Richmond.

For his part, Logano believes that Keselowski will make a return to Victory Lane before the year is out. But he needed to do that on Saturday night, and couldn’t.

“I don’t really have any emotions right now,” Keselowski said. “We weren’t good enough to make it and we didn’t. That is the reality.”

A cold, hard reality.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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