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At Daytona, hand isn't Keselowski's main concern

July 03, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

Keselowski looks to earn first Daytona victory

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Brad Keselowski has one primary concern heading into Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series event at Daytona International Speedway -- and it's not his hand.

"I think it's closing out on the final restart," the 2012 champion said Thursday, after a thunderstorm rolled through and washed out a second scheduled practice at the 2.5-mile facility. "You have to close out on that final restart."

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To Keselowski, closing the deal at Daytona looms as a much more important matter than his right hand, which he gashed while trying to open a champagne bottle during his Victory Lane celebration last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Keselowski needed several stitches at the Kentucky care center to close the wound, but still tested earlier this week with Team Penske at the Milwaukee Mile. During Thursday's opening practice, he didn't even wear a bandage, which wouldn't fit under his glove.

"I mean, it hurts," Keselowski said. "But a little a bit of adrenaline, and I don’t even know it's there."

Keselowski said he's had no further treatment on the hand since Kentucky. The wound is healing nicely, he added, and he's due to have the stitches removed soon. He said Thursday that he had no plans to wear a bandage under his glove for Saturday night's race, although that could change if his stitches come out prior to the green flag. Regardless, the injury shouldn't be a factor Saturday night, Keselowski added, "unless it cuts open."

Looking back at last weekend, Keselowski blames the injury on "flawed technique" in Victory Lane.

"I always struggle with champagne bottles, and it wouldn't come open, and everybody else was hitting theirs on stuff trying to get it open," he said inside his No. 2 transporter. "So I thought, 'Well, I'll just take this ledge and pop it.' And I popped it and I hit it right on the cord, but it just (exploded). I thought there was a possibility it might break, but not like it broke. I mean, it really broke."

Keselowski smiles and shakes his head at the interest his relatively minor injury has attracted among news media, and this weekend would like to make headlines for another reason -- snapping a somewhat uncharacteristic drought at Daytona. Keselowski has never won at NASCAR's most famous track, although he's registered a pair of restrictor-plate victories at Talladega Superspeedway, and he's very often in the mix at the end here.

"We've been really good here. I don't think we've gotten the finishes I would like. That’s very clichéd, but I've probably never been so disappointed in my career as I have here at Daytona. The last two Daytona 500s, we've been running second on the last restart with three or four to go and not won the race, which is as close you can get to winning without winning. And that's the Daytona 500," he said.

"I've relived those races in my mind a little too much, probably, because of how much that means. And just Daytona in general, even on the Nationwide side, I've had a shot at winning this race for probably five straight years and (had) seconds, thirds, wrecked while coming here for the win in 2013, finished second the year before that, finished second this year. Jeez, you know? Daytona's always been that place for me where I've been this close and not won anything here."

Indeed, Keselowski has finished eighth or better in three of his last four Sprint Cup starts at Daytona, including third in the 500 earlier this season. He was fourth-fastest in Thursday's lone practice session.

"We've had the speed," he said. "We just haven’t been able to put all the pieces together. … Everything here at Daytona is always the case for me running second or third and being right there and not winning. It'd sure like to change that."

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