News & Media


Keselowski ready to play his hand at Phoenix

November 07, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brad Keselowski admitted Tuesday that when he walks into a hallowed place like the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his mind often wanders.

It makes him dream of what his legacy in racing may ultimately be, especially at times such as these when he's locked into a tight battle in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Heading into this Sunday's race at Phoenix, the next-to-last race of a long season, Keselowski, who is pursuing his first title, trails Johnson by a mere seven points.

"I like my chances the rest of the way. ... We've got the tools in our toolbox to go out there and win this championship."

--BRAD KESELOWSKI

"I try not to think too hard about things like that, because I'd rather just go out and do it and think about that stuff when I get old. It seems like that naturally comes to you," Keselowski said of his place in the sport. "But certainly when you see some things (in the Hall) and go through it, it makes you think. I was thinking [Tuesday] morning about the championship battle from 1992 and how awesome it was and how that's generally regarded as the best ever. It is to me, at least.

"So someone said something to me about the championship battle between Jimmie and Brad having the potential to be the best championship battle ever. I was thinking back to then and what I would call the best one ever, and what it meant to me to watch it as a fan of the sport. At that moment, you can kind of reflect back and take pride in the fact that you're involved in a championship hunt. Win, lose or draw, you're proud of where you're at. So from a historical reference, it's significant in that manner."

That 1992 battle came down to the final race of the season in Atlanta, where Alan Kulwicki eventually outlasted Bill Elliott and Davey Allison, among others, to win the championship.

Keselowski said he knows he has to first survive Phoenix before he can get to the season finale at Homestead to possibly overtake Johnson and forge his own dramatic, lasting memory. Johnson has won the last two races to build his slim lead, and has an outstanding record at Phoenix -- although that means little because the track was recently reconfigured and repaved.

"I like my chances the rest of the way," Keselowski said. "There are two races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and I feel like our team is running really well. Phoenix and Homestead are two tracks I think we can go to where we can win -- specifically Homestead. So I feel like we've got the tools in our toolbox to go out there and win this championship."

Keselowski said he also believes he's due for some better luck, pointing out that he would have won last Sunday's race at Texas if repeated caution flags hadn't kept flying at the end. Johnson eventually overtook him for the lead after one of the ensuing double-file restarts, and Keselowski finished second.

"I was just disappointed as a guy who had a hand of 20 and watched the dealer get 21 and a Blackjack with 10 cards. I was like, 'Really? How many more times is this going to work out for you?' " Keselowski said. "Sometimes you play everything right and it's just not meant to be, and you have to move on and you know that there are going to be other days where maybe you don't play everything right -- and things still fall together. We played all the cards right and it didn't work out in our favor. I feel like the odds are in our favor the next two races."

Asked how do you know this, Keselowski smiled and replied: "You don't. You just gotta feel it."

Keselowski also admitted he and his No. 2 Dodge team have made some mistakes of their own making during the Chase, allowing Johnson to snatch up precious points. One of those, he pointed out, was when he ran out of fuel while coming to pit road during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He had to battle back from there to salvage an 11th-place finish.

"Obviously, I felt like the Charlotte situation I made a mistake by not saving the right amount of fuel. We lost a little bit there," Keselowski said. "But that was a team effort and we fought back through it and did the best we could to minimize the damage. I don't think it matters. I think no matter how it plays out, the Chase is always going to come down to the last three or four races, no matter what you do. That's just the nature of it."