KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - JULY 23: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wabash Ford, during the NASCAR Cup Series Super Start Batteries 400 Presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts at Kansas Speedway on July 23, 2020 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Jamie Squire | Getty Images

Keselowski lurking behind Hamlin, Harvick during ‘silently’ best season of career

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick may be the class of the NASCAR Cup Series field, but Brad Keselowski is quietly lurking.

The No. 2 Team Penske Ford spent most of the night near the front after starting seventh in Thursday’s Super Start Batteries 400 presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts at Kansas Speedway, winning the second stage after passing teammate Ryan Blaney with three laps remaining.

RELATED: Official race results | Hamlin scores fifth win at Kansas

While a late-race charge fell just short, Keselowski wound up finishing second behind race winner Hamlin, who notched a series-high fifth victory of the 2020 season. Harvick, who finished fourth, owns the second-most victories of the season with four.

“I thought Denny (Hamlin) and I were probably pretty close to equal the second half of the night,” Keselowski said. “It was just a matter of who got out in front. We didn’t get out in front on the restarts there, and he was able to take advantage and bring home the win. All in all, it was still a really good day.”

While Keselowski’s two victories — one each at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway earlier in the year — leave him a bit short of Hamlin and Harvick in the playoff points column, the 2012 champion is on the cusp of making it a “Big 3” into the postseason with seven races left in the regular season.

Keselowski has earned seven top fives and 14 top 10s in the first 19 races with an average finish of 8.9. Since his first victory of the season at Charlotte, Keselowski has only finished outside the top 10 in two of the 13 events after starting out the first five races with three finishes of 11th or worse. While the numbers might not suggest a career-best trajectory, Keselowski thinks otherwise.

“Silently, one of the best years of my career, maybe not wins-wise at this point in the year, but average finish wise, one of the best in my career at this point in the season,” Keselowski said. “I’m very, very happy for that and hopeful that we can just find that other little notch so we can dominate races and showcase ourselves as the Ford to beat.”

With 2020 serving as the final year of his current contract with Team Penske, Keselowski acknowledged he has nothing new to report as negotiations are ongoing, but he’s optimistic given this year’s success.

“I hope,” Keselowski said. “It’s not there, but I’m very hopeful.”