|Keselowski:"I want the ball."|
“It’s been a long road from where I started to where I’m at right now,” said the Penske Racing driver. “If you evaluate drivers when they first come into the sport… look at Ryan Blaney, let’s say. That’s a great example. He started out right here, which is really good. He’s not at Jimmie (Johnson’s) level, but he started out really high. I did not start out there. I started out way down, and my success story is attributed to a constant desire to improve. That’s how I’ve got to where I’m at, and that’s how I feel like I’ll continue to be successful, with a commitment to improvement every day.
“I want to be better tomorrow than I was today,” said Keselowski, “and better in the future than tomorrow. I think it’s that commitment that (allowed) me to get here. When I look at guys like Ryan Blaney, what impresses me so much is that they’re starting out right here. If they can improve at the same level I’ve been able to improve, they’ll be way up there, which is so impressive. For me, it’s been a long road.”
As a relative newcomer to NASCAR’s garage, the second-generation driver said he has often had to fight for the respect of his peers.
|The Blue Deuce is on the brink|
“I’ve been here -- not necessarily a short time -- but not a long time by any means when you compare me to drivers I’m surrounded with. I’m at the bottom of the pecking order. To be a championship driver, you can’t be at the bottom of the pecking order. You have to fight your way to the top, and these guys just aren’t going to throw away their seat and allow you to get to the top of the pecking order. So to some extent, you just have to take it.
“The best way to take it is to have success over a period of time. (But) when you have success, you know those guys don’t want to see you be successful.“
Keselowski said he understands there are drivers in Sunday’s field who would be happy to see him lose the championship. There is, however, no realistic way to avoid those who resent his meteoric rise to the top of the NASCAR ladder.
“How do you stay away from it,” he asked. “It’s not easy. You just try not to give them a reason to be mad. You hope they can be adults about it and realize that’s it’s a different decade (than when they started). But there are no guarantees of that.”
|Keselowski is primed to celebrate Sunday|
While he will still race for the win Sunday, Keselowski there he may have to tone-down his aggressive driving style at times, concentrating instead on the bigger picture. “You’ve got to be careful about (being overly aggressive),” he said. “You’ve got to try to race everybody the same, or bad things will happen to you in general. That’s kind of my rule of thumb.”
Keselowski admitted there have been times in his career when he doubted his ability to make it in NASCAR. “Absolutely,” he said. “There were plenty of moments where I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But, Lord willing, I caught the opportunities and was able to capitalize on them.”
Surprisingly, he even claims to have been disappointed when Johnson experienced problems last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
“When (Jimmie) blew a tire out at Phoenix, I think they were expecting me to be rah-rah about it. (But) it’s quite the opposite of that. I was really disappointed, because I wanted the pressure. I wanted the pressure of coming down here and having to win the race to win the championship, because that’s the type of person I am. I want the ball. I want to be on the field on the last play, with the ball thrown to me. That’s what that moment is.
“There’s definitely some pressure, but I like it. I thrive in it, that’s what I want.”Photos: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images, Terry Renna/AP, Matthew T. Thacker/AP Autostock