Faced with the prospect of not making it to the finish line thanks to, of all things, a hot dog wrapper on his grille, Brad Keselowski decided to gamble on Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Keselowski held a narrow lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. with five laps to go but was also driving a rapidly overheating car. Spotting the lapped car of Danica Patrick, he tried to use the airflow around her car to knock the wrapper off and get his car cooled down.
But Keselowski lost momentum in the process, and that allowed Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the lead. The Hendrick Motorsports driver would not relinquish it, going on to his second win of 2014.
In the immediate aftermath, Keselowski said he should have kept going. But two days after Pocono, he seemed content with the decision he made.
“I told somebody I felt like I was playing a game of blackjack and I was sitting on 15 and the dealer had a face card,” he said during a teleconference this afternoon.
“If you play by the rules, you should take a card and you should hit, and we did, and we busted. The dealer turns over his card and he was sitting on 15, as well, and so you knew he was going to bust out.
“That’s part of it. That’s the cards we play, and some of racing is always going to be chance, and you have to play it by the odds, and I lost. But that’s just the way it goes.”
From his perspective, what occurred to him at Pocono was simply a move that didn’t pan out.
“I didn’t let Dale go and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to try to cool off my engine,'” he said. “I just didn’t execute the move to try and clean it off, and Dale was close enough to get by me, especially with my engine starting to let go.
“You know, in that sense, I don’t feel like anyone would have done anything different.”
But with Pocono done and dusted, Keselowski is now shifting his focus to racing in his home state of Michigan next weekend.
Considering the overall performance that he and Team Penske teammate Joey Logano have had this season – they have earned three wins between them – he has a reason to be excited about his prospects.
Keselowski has won twice at the Michigan International Speedway in the Nationwide Series, which were emotional experiences for him. But it’s clear that a Cup win at MIS would mean even more.
“I remember that after I won a Nationwide race there, just literally locking myself in the bedroom of my motor home after the race and sitting at the edge of the bed and thinking about how awesome that was and what it meant to me and all those things – and that was a Nationwide race,” he said.
“That wasn’t a Cup race. I can only imagine what it would mean to me at the Cup level. I can tell you it wouldn’t be like any other win.”