HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Brad Keselowski is doing his level best to focus on the business at hand — winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship — despite Jimmie Johnson’s best efforts to make Keselowski concentrate on other things.
With one race left on the schedule, Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Keselowski and Johnson are the only two drivers mathematically alive in the battle for the Cup championship. Keselowski has the upper hand, leading Johnson by 20 points; if the driver of the No. 2 Dodge finishes 15th or better, he’ll be the champion, no matter what else happens during the race.
Johnson, however, is trying to make sure Keselowski is aware of everything that could possibly go wrong.
As the drivers share the dais during Thursday’s press conference at the 1.5-mile track where they’ll settle the title on Sunday, Johnson pointed out that finishing 15th in the Cup series isn’t a layup. Then he reminded Keselowski of the IndyCar season finale at Fontana, Calif., where Ryan Hunter-Reay overcame a 17-point deficit to wrest the title from Will Power.
“You know, of course, I’m going to find points that give myself motivation and my team,” Johnson said. “And, Brad, if you’d like me to call later and remind you of any other examples, I certainly can, of guys that didn’t pull off the season finale as they would hope.
“But one thing I’ve learned is that, regardless of how experienced anyone is in this championship battle, at some point the magnitude of it hits you. At some point — he may be very comfortable and calm now; it may not happen until he’s in the car — but at some point that magnitude hits, and I’ve lived through it five times.
“That’s a turning moment, and we’ll see how he responds. It also carries over to guys changing tires. There’s some point where every member on that race team goes, ‘This is it — this is what I’ve worked so hard far.’ I’ll be glad to point out those moments as needed.”
Keselowski doesn’t plan to sit in his car, wondering when that moment will come.
“You know that he has a motivation behind his comments that discredits them of credibility,” Keselowski said. “It’s pretty easy to brush off when you think about it that way.”