Keselowski Seeks High Points Finish

Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski finished 15th at Phoenix International Raceway earlier this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski entered the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as a wild card, but now finds himself in fifth place heading into Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

In eight races, Keselowski moved up six positions and has the chance to finish even higher with two races remaining on the 2011 schedule. With four top fives in the playoffs, he is only 49 points out of the lead.

“We have the opportunity to get up to - at the very least - third in points or maybe higher if Carl (Edwards) and Tony (Stewart) make a mistake,” Keselowski said, “We’re very proud of the season we’ve had.”

The driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge has a tough challenge ahead of him this weekend in Phoenix. In four series races on the one-mile track, Keselowski has yet to lead a lap and his best finish is 15th.

Keselowski suffered a blown tire in last year’s event at Phoenix, causing him to crash into the outside wall and end the day in a career-worst 42nd place.

The good news for the wild-card entry is that the track was repaved this season and will be a wild-card track for all 43 drivers in Sunday’s field.

“There are a lot of questions yet to be answered as for how the race will play out in Phoenix,” Keselowski said. “I think the track has a coating on the top of it that needs to be worn through. The tire appears to be too hard to achieve that. So really I don’t see it being fixed by simply dragging tires, but I could be wrong.”

The unfamiliar surface of the track will add to the excitement of what has been an unpredictable post-season thus far.

Keselowski’s second full year in the Sprint Cup Series has also been unpredictable. In the first nine races, he failed to finish higher than 15th and spent most of the year outside of the top 20 in the standings. Now he sits in the top five of the standings after recording three wins, 10 top fives and 14 top-10 finishes.

“It just says how far we’ve come as a race team over not just the last year but really six months,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done to date and I hope we can go out there and keep racing like this for years to come.”

Keselowski has shown that he can compete with the very best. Although he has four finishes of 16th or worse in the Chase, Keselowski remains ahead of three previous champions in the standings, including five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champion Jeff Gordon and 2004 champion Kurt Busch.

“I feel very lucky to have four top fives so far, and then we’ve had four bad finishes,” Keselowski said. “That’s been tough, but that’s part of the deal. I’m very proud to have a seat at the dance. It’s been good.”

Keselowski’s future in the series is bright, but he continues searching for ways to improve.

“You’re always learning in this sport,” he said. “As a team we’ve grown together. (Crew chief) Paul Wilson and I seem to be clicking very well. I think we have a great shot at having a very competitive year next season.

“But we’re not done with 2011. We still have two races left.”

Keselowski’s career average starting position at Phoenix is 21.8, but he will attempt to capture his second pole of the season when qualifying kicks off at 1:40 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 will be broadcast on Motor Racing Network starting at 2 p.m.

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