No pressure

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, stands by his car on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Will Schneekloth/Getty Images)

LOUDON, NH – SEPTEMBER 19: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, stands by his car on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Will Schneekloth/Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H.—If winning early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was a long-term liberating experience for Brad Keselowski, winning last week’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway is more like a hall pass—good for two races until the start of the next elimination round.

After winning the third race of the season, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Keselowski expressed sentiments similar to those voiced by the year’s first two winners, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick—namely that winning, and thereby all but assuring a Chase berth, gave them the freedom to race without fear of trying out-of-the-box strategies.

That was the mind-set Keselowski brought to Richmond in the final regular-season race, and he won in dominating fashion. By then, of course, he had been every bit as dominant in winning at Kentucky and at New Hampshire in July.

“I kind of feel exactly like we did at Richmond,” Keselowski said Friday, after an announcement that his primary sponsor, Miller Lite, also had extended its partnership agreement with New Hampshire Motor Speedway for three years.  “We’ve got two races to—I don’t want to say goof off—but with no consequences, and that’s enjoyable.

“Everybody loves it when all you can do it win. It’s like getting a free lottery ticket. If you lose, it doesn’t matter, and you have the potential to win something big. We’re going to have fun with it, and I think we have the ability to capitalize with it with strong cars and a great team, and hopefully we can pull off a sweep here.”

Late Friday Keselowski shattered the track record and won the pole for Sunday’s race.

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