Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four stories examining why each driver could win the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship.
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Brad Keselowski will win the 2020 championship because …
He’s likely to have the fastest car this weekend.
Two of the most dominant performances of 2020 came out of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford at New Hampshire and Richmond, with Keselowski leading close to 400 combined laps en route to victory in those two races. Additionally, those two tracks are perhaps closest in nature to Phoenix’s layout, with the same rules package — one in which Keselowski has arguably performed better than anyone this year — used for all three. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins will bring the same car that won both contests to the desert this weekend to complete the hat trick.
Yes we are 😊
It’s won 2 races https://t.co/xEydyB5x5q
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 2, 2020
Assuming that car holds up to the rigors of another race (remember, there’s no practice or qualifying to fine-tune, make adjustments or uncover anything seemingly awry), there’s no reason to think the No. 2 Ford won’t be one of, if not the, fastest cars on the track Sunday.
But a fast car can only go as far as the driver behind the steering wheel is willing to take it, and the 2012 champ has done his part this year to squeeze just about everything out of his ride.
Keselowski’s 2020 season is on an even pace with his title-winning season (that was somehow almost a decade ago), and the pair square off at the top of his resume for the best two campaigns of his career.
2012: 5 wins, 13 top fives, 23 top 10s, 10.1 average finish, 735 laps led
2020: 4 wins, 12 top fives, 24 top 10s, 10.3 average finish, 936 laps led
For much of the regular season since the sport resumed from a two-month break in the spring, Keselowski was in that tier just below the untouchables in Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, all four of his wins coming since May. Now that one of those drivers (Harvick) is eliminated and the other has had a somewhat up-and-down postseason run, this could be the perfect opportunity for the Cup veteran to land his second title in his first Championship 4 appearance since 2017.
As far as Phoenix goes, Keselowski by his own admission is snake-bitten at the desert track, seeing another win slip from his grasp this past spring after leading 82 laps in March and eventually watching his teammate and fellow Championship 4 driver celebrating in Victory Lane while he came home 11th. Keselowski has just two top 10s there the last six races, though one was a runner-up finish.
Phoenix, however, has not been an entirely barren wasteland for him, nearly producing a season sweep in 2014 with a victory in the spring race and a P2 in the fall.
If Keselowski and Bullins can put all the pieces together and the hot rod they’re bringing to the track holds up to the high standard it has set, Keselowski could cruise to his second Cup Series title and further cement his NASCAR Hall of Fame resume.