Monday, October 29, 2012

Keselowski Pushing Title Hunt To New Heights

Brad Keselowski has elevated his game to previously unheard-of levels this season. And he has taken Jimmie Johnson along for the ride.  

With the exception of Tony Stewart’s five-win Chase a year ago, nobody has succeeded in taking the championship battle to Johnson in the last six years. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been able to dictate the tempo of his five successful title hunts, winning more races than the competition and running consistently enough when he didn’t win to keep his pursuers at bay.  

This time around, though, it’s different.  

Instead of a healthy 15, 20 or 25-point advantage with three races remaining, Johnson’s current edge is just two points. No meltdown needed, no colossal collapse, not even a substantial glitch. In fact, Johnson can finish in the Top Three in all of the remaining races and still lose the title. Win, lose or draw, Keselowski has pushed Johnson harder – and farther – than anyone has pushed him before. 

Over the years, Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team have seemingly been immune to pressure. They go about their jobs in an efficient, workmanlike manner, capitalizing on every opportunity and rebounding efficiently from their infrequent miscues.  

This year, the same can be said for Keselowski.  

He and crew chief Paul Wolfe went to Dover International Speedway last month as major underdogs, having never finished in the Top-10 there in five career Sprint Cup Series starts. Johnson was widely heralded as the favorite to win on the Monster Mile, but at the end of the day, it was Keselowski in Victory Lane. Johnson held a major statistical edge last weekend at Martinsville, as well, and while he once again drove the Lowe’s Chevrolet to Victory Lane, Keselowski was close behind with an overachieving sixth-place finish. 

“We did what we needed to do today for sure,” said Johnson Sunday. “We have done a very nice job over these seven races to put us in the points lead (and) we’re ready to race under any conditions. But he is a great driver (with) a great team. The next three races will tell the tale.
“Anything can happen,” he said, insisting that with just a little bad luck for the lead pair, “Bowyer is your champion. There are a lot of laps to be run with three races left. It’s hard to say that even Hamlin is out of it yet."
For his part, Keselowski does not sound like a man unhappy to be battling from behind.
“I feel really confident going into Texas and Homestead,” he said. “I feel like those are two races we can race (Johnson) heads-up on speed and maybe even a little better. I'm not quite so sure about Phoenix, but I'm feeling great. It's like being in a war and surviving the battle.”
Now, Keselowski can be the hunter, rather than the hunted. He can counterpunch, playing whatever strategy card Johnson does not in an effort to claim the 2012 title. And like like Johnson, the Penske Racing driver predicted that the 2012 title fight will go right down to the final laps. 

“This championship is going to come down to Homestead,” he said. “You have to be in a position where you're in sight of it. We need to do what we need to do to be in contention at Homestead. I'm sure it's going to be a duel there.
“We'll keep fighting the good fight.”
Photo: HHP Photo/Alan Marler, K&N


1 comment:

  1. The suspense is killing me!!!

    Brad has proven he belongs where he's at. To be sure, this isn't just a battle between Brad and Jimmy on the track. There is a battle of will and wits, going on, on top of the pit boxes. The competition is fantastic. We are getting to see possibly the best driver-crew chief combination in the history of the sport, and maybe next generation's dynamic duo.

    I don't want to count out Clint Bowyer. While everyone wants of piece of Jimmy and Brad right now, Bowyer is doing what he does best-laying low, having a good time. I don't think anyone expects him to have a shot. I didn't expect him to be looking in from 3rd, with 3 left and a solid chance. He's a threat.

    This isn't 5 wins to come back and snag a cup. This is a sack up, hammer down 10. It's too close to be conservative. It's another Chase, and another nail biter. The folks in the big mahogany offices should be patting each other's backs again.

    Any possible outcome right now would be awesome! Brad, from a hard working, tight, motor oil pumping through their veins, family. That would be a proud day for the whole Keselowski Clan.

    Jimmy, adding number six, would put him within sight of our sport's Mecca-The sacred 7th title. Only the 2 greatest have done it. I see that club adding one soon.

    Clint, would be a fairy tale. MWR, comes out of the gate cheating-ahem-toying with fuel octane levels. They survived the dark days of the Davey "The Nose" Ruetimann. (2 weeks suspension for that?)They turned over their entire fleet, brought in the personnel, and promised Clint he'd be competitive. Well Clint? How's that working out? He's an 'every man' racer. He'd be a great Champ.

    What a Chase!

    You know what NASCAR should do to make the points better? If you finish in an odd number position... Are you kidding me folks? Why do people want to make changes to the closest cup battles, and races in the history of the sport? You can't script this any better.