Brad Keselowski makes no apologies for hoisting the last three trophies in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, despite not dominating any one of the races – at Darlington, S.C., Indianapolis or the playoff opener at Las Vegas last week.
A win is a win. Is a win. …in Keselowski’s case.
And that last win, at Vegas, moves the veteran Team Penske driver into the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs. It’s high confidence and big expectations for the 2012 Cup champ as he prepares for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
As Keselowski points out and has expertly exemplified, you don’t need to dominate a race to win. Just win. And boy has he.
“We’ve been really strong on pit road that certainly helped and we’ve got some good breaks with yellow flags and so forth that’s helped,’’ Keselowski said Friday morning trackside at Richmond. “We got some good breaks on restarts and getting good lanes and that certainly helped. When the opportunity presented itself we haven’t screwed it up and we’ve got some great opportunities that have presented themselves cumulatively, and we put them all together. That’s never a bad thing, right?
“But with respect to that, I think you have to one recognize that we’re fortunate to have the opportunities and that we haven’t just dominated the races. When you dominate a race, you don’t really need an opportunity. You just don’t need any bad luck.
“We have not been dominating the races, we’ve been able to get opportunities to kind of change our fortune and we’ve made the most of them, so I think you recognize that and then you recognize that making the most of your opportunities is so important in motorsports and in life. That’s where we’re at today with these wins that we’ve had.”
Keselowski and his No. 2 Team Penske Ford team are certainly peaking at the right time, with eight races left to decide which four drivers are eligible for the championship in the Nov. 18 Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale.
His win Sunday at Vegas gives Ford Performance its first two-driver three-race sweep in history. Keselowski’s effort matching Kevin Harvick’s three-race streak earlier this season at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Should Keselowski win again on Sunday he would tie Mark Martin’s four-race winning streak set back in 1993.
The Vegas race was also a season highlight for Keselowski and Team Penske. It earned NASCAR Hall of Fame bound team owner Roger Penske his 500th victory in major league auto racing. And it was a strong overall showing for the team’s three drivers. Joey Logano finished fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth – the first time the team has boasted three drivers with a top-five showing in the same race.
Not only did Keselowski earn an automatic berth in Round 2 of the NASCAR Playoffs, Logano and Blaney further raised their game in the standings and are now ranked fifth and seventh with the top-12 drivers moving to the next round following next week’s race at Charlotte’s road course. Logano has won at Richmond twice.
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. leads the championship standings. He holds a slim two-point advantage over five-time Richmond winner Kyle Busch.
Keselowski, who won his Cup championship prior to the current playoff elimination format, has positioned himself perfectly for a real run at a second title. And Richmond – which is debuting as a playoff race after previously hosting the regular season finale – has been a good venue for the 34-year old Keselowski.
He has four NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Richmond and four top-10 Cup finishes since his 2014 victory, including a runner-up showing in the 2017 Spring race here. He was eighth here earlier this season.
And his only Cup win at the track in 2014? It was one of most dominating performances ever at the venue – and of the season – with Keselowski leading 383 of the 400 laps and winning from the pole position.
It all bodes well for this weekend and Keselowski has reason for nothing but high expectations and high hopes.
“That was a phenomenal day, it really was,’’ he recalled, smiling about that 2014 win. “I feel like we probably could have won three or four races here and two or three of them have kind of slipped through my hands on restarts or things of that nature.
“With respect to that, that’s part of what makes winning the last three so sweet is knowing that I’ve had a lot of other races that have fallen apart where we’ve had opportunity. It makes you appreciate them. Richmond is one of those tracks we just really like and we look forward to the race.”