Brad Keselowski has started his Sprint Cup title defense with three consecutive top-5 finishes, but the driver of the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford is finding it hard to enjoy his good fortune.
“I want to win,” said Keselowski after finishing third in today’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “The last three weeks — really, last two weeks and I’m sure when I get home tonight — I’ll go home and throw around some pillows and punch some things, because we’ve had a shot at winning all three of these races and come up short, whether it’s circumstances, bad luck, or just a little bit of execution.”
“In retrospect, once you get a day to cool off from it, you say, ‘Wow, that’s really good. Three top-fives, that’s how I wanted to start the year.’ But with the way I finished last year, I want to win. I wanted to win all three of these races and I’m not happy unless we can [win].”
Keselowski improved over the second half of the race to get his third-place result, which, while not the victory he craves for, goes nicely with the fourth-place efforts he earned at both Daytona and Phoenix. He’s also now moved ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. for second in the Sprint Cup standings, and now sits five points behind leader Jimmie Johnson (who finished sixth in the race) going into next week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
As for what he thought of the Generation-6 cars’ first race on a 1.5-mile oval, Keselowski gave it high marks, particularly on its handling.
“One thing I was really happy about was this car seemed to really respond to driving sideways, which is really good,” he said. “I think it puts a lot of emphasis on the quality of driver you are to control a slide…I think that heightens the ability of talented drivers to run up front.”
Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.
“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”
Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.
The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.
Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.
Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.
Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.
Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.
Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”