Keselowski Looks to Kentucky for Spark
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on June 25, 2013 | 1:12 P.M. EST
Brad Keselowski hopes that Kentucky Speedway can provide the answers he and his team are looking for to run better. (Photo: Getty Images)
Nearly halfway through this season, we’ve heard more from Brad Keselowski than we’ve seen.
He challenged NASCAR Chairman Brian France in February, questioned series officials in April after a penalty and claimed this month that Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports had poached team members, earning sharp rebukes from Joe Gibbs and Rick Hendrick.
On the track? It’s easy to overlook that Keselowski has never been higher in the points at this time of the season, sitting ninth. Without a win, though, it seems underwhelming, just like his results the past two months with one top-10 finish in the last eight races.
That could change this weekend.
Kentucky Speedway has opened a gateway to success for Keselowski each of the past two years. He’ll look for that track to again jumpstart his season Saturday.
His victory there last year started a season-ending run of 17 top-10 finishes in 20 races on his way to winning the series title. A seventh-place finish there in 2011 led him to nine top-10 finishes in 11 races as he rallied to make the Chase. He finished fifth in the points that season.
]While he left Sonoma Raceway on Sunday disappointed with a 21st-place finish - what he called a double whammy of not having a fast car and the race playing out differently to their strategy - he liked what he saw looking ahead.
“I think we have some strong tracks for us,’’ he said. “We’ve got a really good package for (Watkins) Glen, really good package for Kentucky, there’s Bristol in August. Indy, I think we’re going to be great at.’’
He also looks to be stronger at New Hampshire, a track he finished fifth last July and sixth in September. Penske Racing is testing there Tuesday and Wednesday. This is the Penske’s first of four allowable tests at tracks that host Cup races.
“We’re positioning ourselves I feel like to be strong when it counts in the race to the Chase and for the Chase,’’ said Keselowski, who will compete in the Trucks, Nationwide and Cup races at this weekend at Kentucky.
Although Keselowski hasn’t won a Cup race this year, he’s not worried about his team’s performance.
“It’s human nature to worry when you don’t have all the facts,’’ he said. “I know where we’re at as a team, that we could flip a light switch here and be just as strong, if not stronger than ever."
He admits that having rear suspension pieces disallowed by NASCAR in April - after a penalty that cost him 25 points in the standings - was a setback but adds that “we’ve just got to work, find those things back.’’
Keselowski said that’s not the sole reason why the results have not been as good lately.
“We haven’t executed either,’’ Keselowski said. “We just have to find that next level. I can sit here and ... moan about it and last year at this time we had two wins, yes, but we weren’t any higher in the standings. I think if you look at our race team’s history, July and August are our strong months and we really seem to perform from there. We need to keep that trend going.’’
If so, Keselowski could be in the spotlight more for what he does than what he says.