After Brad Keselowski stomped the field en route to his fourth NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season in the opening round of the playoffs at Richmond, we started asking ourselves if Keselowski is one of the favorites to be hoisting the championship trophy at Phoenix in November.
I mean, I even wrote it then and said that I hated to be that guy that overreacts to one win and say just because of that they’re now a title hopeful. I mean, the win was Keselowski’s first top five in the last seven starts on the season at that point. Since, he’s not showing to be a great contender again either. He made it past the Round of 12 due to his playoff points and has been okay in the Round of 8.
But, I do think this is a rare circumstance to where we have to put him in the “favorites” category again. Here’s why.
The 750 horsepower tracks are his bread and butter right now. We’ve had 10 races on these circuits this season and no one has won as many of them as Keselowski. Three of his four wins have come on these tracks.
His teammate Joey Logano won at Phoenix in March. Martin Truex Jr won at Martinsville in June. Chase Elliott won on the Daytona road course while Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick all won at Dover in August and Bristol in September. Keselowski won at Bristol, New Hampshire and Richmond. That’s three wins for him and one for everyone else minus Harvick.
Keselowski says that these tracks are their strengths right now and with Martinsville in the Round of 8 this weekend and Phoenix as the championship next, isn’t Keselowski now among the favorites?
“These next two races really set up terrific, and I’m just excited,” said Keselowski on Friday. “I was really nervous about Texas. I thought Texas would be the most difficult race for us to get through in this round, and it ended up going really well for us. And these next two races I’m just — I don’t want to say licking my chops, but I feel like based on our season’s performance to date, they present the best chance for us to go out and really have a chance to win and get a second championship, so I’m pretty pumped about it.”
He enters Sunday’s race +25 on the playoff bubble, so barring someone below him winning the Xfinity 500, Keselowski should advance to the Championship 4. After all, Keselowski was third on this track back in June as well as there in this very race last year too. He also has five straight top five finishes in this playoff race too.
“I want to win,” he said. “I know we’re going to have a shot starting from the pole and having the first pit stall. That’s as good a shot as you’re going to get at Martinsville out of the gate. Of course, you’ve got to execute and deliver during the race, but I’m certainly going there to win and not thinking of anything differently.
“I don’t want to play defense. I just want to go out there and play offense. I’m confident we’ve got the capabilities as a team to do just that, so probably will not spend that much time thinking about him (Hamlin) — at least not intentionally.
“I plan on making it miserable for everyone. I’m an opportunist. I’d like to just win it and not worry about it. I think it’s very dangerous for me to focus on one car. I want to focus on my car if I’m going to focus on any cars.”