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.
After a rough Round of 12 to where he skated by to the third round after finished of just 13th, 18th and 18th respectively, he was shockingly strong in the Round of 8.
Keselowski, didn’t finish worse than sixth last round. That even shocked him as he admitted that he was nervous for the two 1.5 mile tracks at Kansas and Texas. He finished fourth and sixth at both.
After being fourth last week in Martinsville, I do think this is a 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 11 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 car coming win him Sunday, has two wins already.
Keselowski, loves the fact that he got to keep this car again.
“I’m a car lover,” he said. “You get a car you like, you run it. That’s very anti-Penske. They don’t feel that way at all. So I get a lot of strange looks when I tell them, ‘Hey, this car is good.’ And they’ll look at me like ‘Oh, no, all of our cars are the same. We have this laser system. And the laser grid has all these cars exactly the same.’ I’m looking at them going, ‘Mmm-hmm. You’re overengineering this.
“Probably one of the biggest heartbreaks in my entire life. In 2014, went to Kentucky, we sat on the pole, led the majority of the race, probably were a half-tenth to a tenth faster than the field the whole weekend. Just awesome. Perfect weekend.
“I came back into the shop Monday for debriefs. By Monday afternoon, debriefs were done, and Kentucky being a Saturday race, the cars were back in the shop first thing Monday morning. By the time, we got done with debriefs around 4 or 5 o’clock on Monday, I walk back in the shop and there was that car and they’d cut it up. When I say cut it up, I’m not talking about like cut a fender off. There was nothing left of this car.
“I was just like how could you do that? And the whole group was, ‘Oh, we’ll build another one. This car had two races on it.’ I didn’t win another mile-and-a-half race that entire year.
“I sat through that experience and went please don’t ever do that again. I still get a lot of those looks from part of the manufacturing team at Penske. I do believe there are certain cars that, for whatever reason, perform slightly better than others. Yes, the quality control processes and procedures have evolved tremendously, but to say you can build every car the same, is a farce to me.
“When this came up when we were going to run this car again, I made sure it was not even an option for it to circulate outside of the Phoenix race.”
Keselowski, also said that these final two races set up perfectly for him to win the title.
“These next two races really set up terrific, and I’m just excited,” said Keselowski on Friday before Martinsville. “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.
“I would say I feel pretty darned good, yeah. You know, I’ve had different conversations internally this week than I had the last time I was in the Championship 4, that at their most basic level come from a high level of confidence. There’s nothing guaranteed, but I’m very confident we’re going to go there and be very competitive and have a great shot to win the race.
“That’s what I can guarantee is that we’ll be there, we’ll be focused, my team is going to bring a great car, and the chips will fall where they will from there, but our preparation and all that will — it’s already at a very high level, and I feel good about that.”
This is the first time since 2017 that Keselowski has had a shot at a championship in the season finale. He finished seventh that day though.
This is honestly his best shot since his title in 2012. He was runner up in this race in 2018 and 11th in the spring.
“Our team is motivated,” Keselowski said. “They’re hungry. I’m looking at a group of people, and I think I’m the only one that’s ever won a Cup championship on the entire team lineup. Three of my guys that go over the wall come from my truck team, and I’m super excited for them. I’ve been with them and helped them from kind of day one when they had never pitted a race car before and now here they are competing for a Cup championship. That just gives me butterflies deep down inside.
“I’m super pumped for Jeremy Bullins, and he came through the Xfinity team and how he’s grown and just keeps getting better. Our communication is rock solid, on point, whatever you want to call it.
“I just feel really good about it. I want to win a championship, of course, for myself, but as much as I want to win it for myself, I want to see the people around get that opportunity like I had before to enjoy it, to celebrate it.
“They’re encouraged. They’re motivated and in a great spot. I’m happy for them. So it’s good to see us fight through the adversity you know you’re going to have in these playoffs. We’ve gone through nine races. A few of them have gone really well. A few went really bad and a lot went right in between and we’ve overcome adversity and got this far. I’m ready to finish it off. I think our team is, too.
“We know Sunday is not going to be easy. We don’t know what’s going to get thrown at us, but I’m sure something will get thrown at us, and when it comes at us I’m going to do the best I can and I’m confident my team will, too, to brush it aside and move on and keep our head down on the goal to win the race and ultimately the championship.”
He has done it once, he can do it again. At least that is what Team Penske is hoping this weekend at Phoenix Raceway as Brad Keselowski will attempt to bring the organization its third NASCAR Cup Series championship. Keselowski secured Roger Penske his first Cup title back in 2012 and Joey Logano grabbed the second in 2018.
In the Modern Era (1972-Present), only eight organizations have won multiple NASCAR Cup Series championships. Currently Team Penske (2012, 2018) is tied with Roush Fenway Racing (2003, 2004), and Stewart-Haas Racing (2011, 2014) with two titles each and looks to break the tie this weekend at Phoenix.
|NASCAR Cup Series (1972-Present) Multiple Champions|
|Rank||Multiple Championship Winning Organizations||Titles|
|2||Richard Childress Racing||6|
|3||Junior Johnson & Associates||6|
|4||Joe Gibbs Racing||5|
|6||Roush Fenway Racing||2|
Team Penske has won three times at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series – the first was in 1998 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, and the next two were by Joey Logano in the Playoff race of 2016 and earlier this season.