LAS VEGAS — Brad Keselowski has his fastball back.
The trademark zip from the Team Penske driver has resurfaced at an opportune time, with Keselowski riding a two-race win streak into the NASCAR Playoffs opener this weekend. In a town where one’s fortunes are often described in relation to their gambling wins or losses, Keselowski is decidedly “up.”
There’s good reason for Keselowski’s buoyant demeanor, crossing two prestigious tracks in Darlington and Indianapolis off his career bucket list in consecutive weeks. He’s savoring it now, but there are longer-reaching goals at stake with the postseason opening this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It’s kind of sunk in that we won Darlington and Indy, and it means the world to me, it really does. I hope that we can win Daytona and the Coke 600 and just get ’em all,” said Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy Series champ. “That would be really special to me, personally. We have that opportunity in front of us as well, but there’s nothing more important to me than winning another championship, and that’s what I see in front of us.”
Keselowski enters Sunday’s playoff opener — the South Point 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) — seeded a scrappy fourth behind the ballyhooed Big 3 of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and defending series champ Martin Truex Jr. That trio has accounted for 17 wins in the 26 regular-season events and accordingly, the three are ranked first through third.
Keselowski’s two-week resurgence more than doubled his tally in the playoff-point column, his Indianapolis win pushing him up three spots in the standings and within reach of the leading triumvirate. If those three are John, Paul and George, Keselowski is making a solid case for becoming Ringo.
“Of course we want to climb to first, which sounds easy, but there’s a lot of great competition that won’t make it easy nor should they,” Keselowski said. “So, with that in mind, the opportunity is in front of us and we’ll see what we can deliver.”
There’s not one clear-cut factor, Keselowski said, that has made these last two weeks vastly different than the 24 winless weeks that preceded them. Execution on pit strategy has helped, he said. So have the pit stops themselves and some timely restarts.
That’s all equaled a sizable dose of momentum for the No. 2 Ford team ahead of the closing 10-race stretch. Should that surge give the rest of the 16-driver field reason to be worried?
“I’m not ready to say worried,” Keselowski said, “but I’m also very proud of what we’ve done.”