Drivers expect aggression, intensity to ramp up with more on the line

LAS VEGAS — Defending Las Vegas race winner Brad Keselowski is among those expecting the intensity to increase this weekend with the playoff opener. A three-time winner at Vegas, Keselowski is a favorite this weekend and conceded that he’s fully prepared to do whatever is necessary to earn one of the coveted winner’s trophies en route to the Homestead-Miami Speedway Championship finale.

However, he cautioned that “aggressive” behavior on track isn’t so much a result of the playoff intensity, but a necessary mode in winning races, period.

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“The racing is always changing and evolving,” said Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford. “If it didn’t, it would always be really boring. The cars keep getting after it and the drivers push them and each other harder. Combine that with the rules on the cars making it so important to make your passes on the restarts, you really have such a narrow window of time to make something happen that you throw more desperate punches, so to speak.

“Sometimes I certainly challenge myself to be more aggressive than years prior. That is a different challenge, but a good one.”

Keselowski’s teammate, 25-year old Ryan Blaney is making his third consecutive Playoff appearance. He won last year’s Charlotte Roval Playoff race and finished 10th in the championship standings. For him, the Playoff portion of the season is about consistency not necessarily changing the intensity.

“Honestly, I don’t really like to change up kind of the way you go about things in the playoffs,” said Blaney, who drives the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. “Honestly, if you get to playoff time and then you start driving 110 percent now, I try to do that all year.

“Yeah, the intensity level picks up in some scenarios but I just try to be the same because at the end of the day it is the same goal all year. Racing and winning races and getting points. You know what the end goal is. You can’t have mistakes.”