Keselowski looks for legacy with second title
June 30, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
MORE: Keselowski wins at Kentucky | Injured in celebration
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We may not be talking about Brad Keselowski a week from now, given the constant twists and turns of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, but the Team Penske driver put on quite a show Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
Aside from an injury in the winner's circle when he smashed a champagne bottle and cut his right hand, Keselowski appeared to make no mistakes in the Quaker State 400.
He led 199 of the race's 267 laps for one of the most dominating performances of the season.
Now twice a winner this year, Keselowski, 30, seems to be making amends for 2013, when he became the second defending series champion to fail to qualify for the Chase the following year (Tony Stewart, 2006).
Another title is definitely on his radar, if not yet within his grasp.
"Last year was a very humbling year for us," he said after a brief stop for four stitches at the care center. "So I think I probably appreciate it even more. I appreciate the opportunity to have races like this and opportunities to run for a championship."
The abundance of 1.5-mile tracks coming up bodes well for Keselowski, whose two wins this season have come on such layouts (Las Vegas and Kentucky). Mastering those is half the battle (or perhaps a bit more, from strictly a percentage viewpoint), but restrictor-plate races, short tracks and another road course stop lie ahead as well.
There's no time to rest on success. Enjoy the win and move on.
"Certainly we're not content," he said. "We had a great car … led a lot of laps and won the race, but the reality is that Hendrick cars have won, I think, three or four out of the last five (races), and they're going to continue to be the cars to beat. So we're going to have to keep pushing as well."
Until Ford teams won the last two races (Edwards at Sonoma and now Keselowski), Hendrick Motorsports teams had reeled off five consecutive victories: the first by Jeff Gordon, three by six-time champion Jimmie Johnson and one by Dale Earnhardt Jr. All told, the group has won six of this year's 17 races.
Not that Keselowski or teammate Joey Logano have been lackluster. The two have combined to win four times, and its a rare occasion when they aren’t running in the top 10.
But even on the heels of his most recent success, there's an urgency to collect a second championship, Keselowski said. As enjoyable as that first title was, "I don't want to win one championship and that be it for my career.
"I'm not going to be happy with that," he said. "And I want to win another championship, but I don't want it to be five or 10 years from now. I don't want to be a guy that contends for a championship every three or four years, I want to do it each and every year, and I know that opportunity is here, and it's present, and I want to make the most of it, and I'm not afraid to communicate that."
It's difficult to determine if the new Chase format -- which will see four drivers battle for the title in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway – will make it easier or more difficult for a driver and team to enjoy a lengthy run of success.
But no matter the format, one thing won’t change: a driver with a fast car is extremely hard to beat. And right now, Keselowski clearly has one of the fastest.