Brad Keselowski couldn’t quite pull out a victory to close his 2014 Sprint Cup season, but the Team Penske pilot’s third-place finish in tonight’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway allowed him to finish fifth in the championship standings – and tops among drivers not among the Championship 4.
Keselowski was in contention for the race win, running third at a restart with nine laps left in the Ford Ecoboost 400. But he was one of several drivers who were swallowed up after the green flag by a charging Kevin Harvick, who went on to win the race and his first Cup title.
“It was a good night,” said Keselowski. “To have another sound finish and bring home the white deuce with a third is not bad. We certainly wanted to be able to win and Kevin made a great move on that next-to-last restart and got through traffic and by us for the lead. That was pretty cool to see actually.
“It was a solid season for everyone here at Team Penske. We had six wins and I think 17 top-fives, the most top fives and wins in the series and that is a lot to be proud of. It was a decent night. Not exceptional but a pretty good night.
“We end up third with some ups and downs and got caught on pit road under a yellow. The team did a great job recovering from that. It was a solid to finish to what has been a great year for us.”
Keselowski was running in the Top 10 when he pitted under green at Lap 57 -only to have the caution come out one lap later. That put him a lap down, but after taking the wave-around to return to the lead lap, he re-emerged in the Top 10 by Lap 100.
Keselowski would then rise as high as second in the latter stages of the race before settling for the third-place spot behind Harvick and Ryan Newman.
His six victories were not enough to ensure him a spot in the Championship 4, but Keselowski was at ease about who ultimately took the crown.
“The fastest car all season won the championship,” he mused. “I think that is right. The most consistent car was probably Jeff [Gordon]. He finished sixth in points. We had the most wins and we finished [fifth].
“You can argue every case for a championship scenario but the reality is that we all knew what it took to win going in, and Kevin and his team did it.”
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.