Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Keselowski Off To Career-Best Start

Brad Keselowski’s 2012 championship season was stellar, but he’s wasting no time fashioning a follow-up campaign that has the potential to be even better. 

With four races complete in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, the reigning champion has already claimed the top spot in the championship point standings. He leads Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by nine points entering Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Cal. 

The 29-year-old Keselowski hasn’t won yet, but he has done the next best thing, putting himself in a position to win in each of the season’s four starts to date. He is the only driver to have finished among the top five in each of the season’s four opening races. A third-place finish in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol follows an identical outcome at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and fourths at Phoenix and Daytona. 

He is also the only driver to lead at least one lap in every race.  

Keselowski’s start is the best in the series since Jimmie Johnson got off to an equally auspicious beginning in 2005. A fifth consecutive Top-5 this weekend would be the first since NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace’s 1998 start, which also came at the wheel of the No. 2 Miller Lite “Blue Deuce” Ford. Fellow Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough holds the all-time mark, with nine consecutive Top-5 finishes to begin the 1974 season. 

“Obviously, we're off to my best start ever,” said Keselowski, who was 14th in the standings at this point a year ago. “That's really cool. I'm happy for my team, (but) we can't keep our feet still. We know that Kyle (Busch) and Jimmie (Johnson) are going to continue to make their cars better. We have to keep digging and push on our stuff, too. I think we’ve got a pretty good feel on the 2 team.” 

Daytona 500 winner Johnson had been the point leader until Sunday, when a crash relegated him to a 22nd-place finish. Busch has Top-5 finishes in each of the past two races. 

For Keselowski, Auto Club Speedway remains a question mark. His best finish in four career starts there is 18th, in last year’s rain-shortened event. He has been on a tear lately when it comes to erasing poor finishes, though, logging track-best performances at 16 different tracks last season, with five wins. Three of those victories – Chicagoland, Dover and Kentucky – came at tracks where he had never won before.

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