News & Media

Behind the Wheel: In the Chase, added bonus would be top 10

September 09, 2011, Brad Keselowski, Special to NASCAR.COM,

The fans that were able to make it to the Atlanta Cup Series race on Tuesday were treated to one of the best races of the year. In fairness, not everyone had the means to stay for the race. I understand that and it's unfortunate that Mother Nature sometimes has to poke her nose in our business. The few thousand that were in attendance made a lot of noise and helped all of us make the best out of the hand we were dealt by the weather.

Look at the top four finishers in that race: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and my Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch. There are 12 Cup championship represented in those four spots. From my finishing position of sixth, I had a pretty good seat for what was going on in front of me. I had hopes of driving our Miller Lite Dodge into that group, but we were just a little bit off to make that happen. If there was ever a place to call a "driver's track," it would have to be Atlanta.

Top 10 vs. wild card

Brad Keselowski has secured no worse than a wild-card berth in the Chase, but if he can get into the top 10, he'll receive bonus points for his wins (worth three points per win when the standings are reseeded; wild-card drivers do not receive bonus points for wins and will be reseeded 11th and 12th).

The chart below depicts drivers who have clinched a Chase spot, their number of wins, and current ranking.

Jeff Gordon35
Kevin Harvick36
Brad Keselowski311
Matt Kenseth24
Jimmie Johnson11
Carl Edwards13
Kurt Busch17
Ryan Newman18

The fact is, there just aren't many race tracks left like Atlanta -- fast, worn, abrasive tracks that used to make up a larger portion of our schedule. Darlington, long the standard for "cheese-grater" tracks, has been resurfaced. So has Daytona and Phoenix. We can all only hope that Atlanta can hold out a few more years before it needs to be repaved, too. It inevitably has to be done to every track sooner or later and it takes a while before they become multi-grooved again.

Let's just enjoy this one while we have it.

I have to admit, these last two weeks have been pretty surreal for me. First, we go out and win the Bristol night race. Each race that I've been fortunate to win has been special in its own way, but that one is the coolest race we have. It has to rank at the top for me. That win pretty much solidified our spot in the Chase for this season. It was an awesome night, for sure.

* Final Laps: BK wins at Bristol | Victory Lane: Jubilate celebration

In Atlanta, we were able to officially clinch our playoff spot -- and almost grab another top-five finish -- despite not being as fast as we'd like. It was our first trip to Atlanta this year, and Paul's [Wolfe] first trip as a Cup Series crew chief. So for us to come out of there with a sixth-place finish, it tells me that we are really coming together as a team. And it couldn't come at a better time.

It would be nice to gain 24 points on Stewart at Richmond so that we could use our wins, and the bonus points that go with them, for being inside the top 10, but I know it's going to be tough. He is really good -- especially at Richmond -- for that to happen. But we're going to give it our best shot and see what happens.

Richmond is one of my favorite places to race and one that really fits my driving style. I've been fortunate in that I've never qualified outside the top 10 there. If we can put together another good qualifying effort this weekend, I think we have a real shot at finishing in Victory Lane. That would be a great way to head into the Chase!

This week's fan question comes from Gary Griess. He wants to know what my life experience has been like as I've progressed from when I started racing up until now?

Thanks for the question, Gary. I guess the best way to describe it is that it has been a lot of hard work that was rewarded with some great opportunities. Each phase held a key learning experience that has made me what I am today, both as a driver and as a team owner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Early on in my career, I felt as though I needed to race a certain way to get noticed because the door to get into the Cup Series was closing fast. It hasn't been easy, but it's hard to argue with the results. The Blue Deuce is one of the top rides in the sport.

That's it for this week. We're off to the Chase. Anything can happen now.

Behind the Wheel with Brad Keselowski runs every other week on NASCAR.COM as he shares his experiences throughout the season, both at and away from the track. The opinions expressed are solely those of Keselowski. Have a question for Brad? Submit inquiries to and follow him on Twitter at