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As hot run continues, Keselowski looks forward

August 22, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- He's pleased with recent performances, but far from satisfied with wild card spot

Brad Keselowski doesn't know what exactly it is that he's doing differently this month. But he just wants to keep doing it.

"I wish I could bottle it up and save a little bit of it," Keselowski said after adding a third-place finish in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 to his win at Pocono and runner-up finish at Watkins Glen.

"There's been some growth within the company at Penske Racing ... We've made a step forward, which is great to do and has created the results we've seen over the last few weeks. But I think we need to make another step forward."

--BRAD KESELOWSKI

"I don't see where I'm doing anything a lot differently, I really don't," Keselowski said. "I don't see where my team is doing anything a lot differently. I think we have good speed. I think Jimmie or anyone else in the garage would tell you that speed is the foundation of a good team. I think that good speed is what you need.

"If we'd have had great speed, maybe we could have won today. We've had good speed over the last few weeks. From there, you have to execute as a team. We've done that."

In the past five weeks, Keselowski has gone from 23rd to 12th in the standings. And having gained 43 points on 10th-place Tony Stewart since Indianapolis, Keselowski could conceivably race his way into the top 10 before the Chase field is set three races from now.

None of this seemed remotely possible when Keselowski had a tire go down and hit the wall at New Hampshire, leading to a 35th-place finish.

"It seemed like we kept taking one step forward, one step back, a good run, a bad run, a good run, a bad run," Keselowski said. "You can't do that with this new points system.

"After Loudon, it was a big step backwards. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was nervous after that race. Like I say, we're clicking now. That's all that really matters. Just glad to see it."

Keselowski started the season with nine consecutive finishes of 15th or worse, so in his opinion, he's been flying under the radar for some time, even if the results didn't match the team's efforts.

"I look at some of the races where I felt we were really, really good at," Keselowski said. "The [Coca-Cola] 600, where I felt like we ran top-five, top-10 all day, at the very end we're in position to run second or third, someone runs out of gas in front of you.

"Kind of weird things have happened to us the first third of the year. Sometimes people forget about you when you have those things happen."

And now, a top-three at MIS, a place where the Michigan native had never finished better than 24th in four previous starts.

"it was a great showing, by far the best run I've ever had here, which is something that I'm going to personally reflect on tonight over a beer or two," Keselowski said. "It's been a lot of fun. I feel good. Not as good as I'd like to feel, but good enough to not sit here and whine about it."

And the amazing thing is that he's been doing this without being 100 percent healthy. Keselowski is still rehabilitating his injured ankle, and battling back problems as well.

"I ran the whole race without a brace," Keselowski said. "Maybe [I'll] regret that just a little bit. [But I'm] making progress, and that's good. I need to. We'll just have to see how it goes week by week."

Keselowski said confidence does play a major factor, but in this case, it may be more than the power of positive thinking that's propelling the No. 2 Dodge to greater heights.

"Obviously there's been some growth within the company at Penske Racing," Keselowski said. "I kind of walk a line there with how I say that because we've made a step forward, which is great to do and has created the results we've seen over the last few weeks. But I think we need to make another step forward.

"To be a championship contender, we need to make that next step."

And if he were to get into the Chase by making the top 10, those two wins play an even greater role -- as bonus points.

"Those [bonus] points are great," Keselowski said. "But I don't think we've seen a year yet where those points have made the difference over who wins or who doesn't. It seems like we all talk about it at this point in the year.

"I would like to make the top 10 on our own merits, if for no other reason than to push away all the naysayers of the wild card system, not to have to hear that. It's going to be good either way. I'm a big fan of the wild card."

And an even bigger fan of bottling and saving momentum.