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Brad Keselowski drives to an impressive, yet still frustrating, third at ‘500

Feb 24, 2014, 10:19 AM EST

56th Daytona 500 Getty Images

Brad Keselowski climbed from 33rd to third in the Miller Lite Ford on Sunday night, in what was by far his most impressive Daytona 500.

Heading into the Daytona 500, ECR Chevrolet engines stole the show in qualifying while Toyota entered the race with three wins in the three NASCAR Sprint Cup non-points preliminary races that make up Speedweeks.

So Ford had almost been lying in the weeds, but Keselowski’s now-white No. 2 Team Penske entry was an absolute rocket on race day.

“I thought our car was really, really, really strong. Best car I ever had here at Daytona,” he said after the race. “I’m proud of it. Got to the lead from the very back twice. Didn’t quite pull it off the third time, but got really close there obviously in the closing laps with some help from a few others.”

Keselowski played himself into position for the final restart after leading four times for 13 laps earlier in the race. As the lanes shifted and movement occurred, he never was able to get that last run to slingshot through to the lead.

Still, had he been able to replay the last two laps, he said he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

“When the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and 18 (Kyle Busch) broke apart, then the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) split the 18, that was the end of my night. There was nothing I could do,” he said.

“It was just circumstances outside of my control. I could have blocked the 11 and ran second. That’s all that was going to happen if I would have blocked the 11. But I really wasn’t interested in running second. I took a shot at a different move that would have given me an opportunity to win and finished third. That’s just the way it is.”

It was a great run for the 2012 series champion, who’s seeking a bounce back 2014 after he failed to make the Chase in 2013.

But like Denny Hamlin in second, third here in the biggest race of the year simply wasn’t good enough. And given NASCAR’s new Chase format where winning is everything, Keselowski put to bed the line about having a “good points day.”

“Points days don’t mean anything anymore. That’s the great thing about this format,” he explained. “There is no good points day, as far as I’m concerned. What matters is a win, especially when you come to Daytona.”

REMEMBER: You can see the premiere of NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN tonight.

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