Brad Keselowski says don’t count him out just yet in winning the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The veteran driver advanced to the Round of 12 after his finish last week at Bristol Motor Speedway. He enters Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as 10th in the standings. Keselowski feels confident after surviving the opening round he can stay in the mix in the title conversation.
“If we have the speed and the execution on the driver side to match the pit crew, we can go and win the championship,” Keselowski said. “Right now, the speed has been our weakness to be quite frank, and that kind of stuff comes and goes and that’s why I hesitate to put expectations on anything because obviously, as a driver, I have some control of the speed quotient, but the reality is when you get to the Cup level most of the drivers are very close with respect to the ability of how fast they can make a car go on its own accord. Ultimately, we’ll see what we’ve got.”
However, despite his confidence level, Keselowski also is well aware of the variables and challenges that are ahead, beginning with the 1.5-mile Nevada track. A return to the 550-horsepower, low-downforce rules package and another weekend of no practice or qualifying combine for a number of unknowns in the Round of 12 playoff opener.
“If we knew the knobs that well to be able to predict it, we would turn them every week, so I can’t say honestly,” Keselowski said when asked what he expects at Las Vegas. “I really don’t know what I’m gonna have this weekend.
“If we went there and we ran top five all week and snuck out a race win, I wouldn’t be shocked. If we went to Vegas and ran 10th to 15th all week and finished in that range, I wouldn’t be shocked. I don’t know what to expect with respect to our performance.”
There’s another variable in the Keselowski story, and that is his imminent departure from Team Penske at season’s end. He’ll move to a driver-owner role at Roush Fenway Racing in 2022, making his remaining time with Roger Penske’s organization a bittersweet farewell.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Keselowski said. “It’s made me a better race car driver and a better person, and I’m incredibly proud of that. I’m incredibly proud of the things we’ve done, the people we’ve met, the experiences that have come with it. Knowing and working with Roger Penske has, like I said, made me a better person in a lot of ways and a lot of the people around there are just tremendous people as well at Team Penske.
“I’m certainly gonna miss working with a lot of them and it’s bittersweet. Obviously, I’m very much looking forward to new opportunities that are in front of me, otherwise I wouldn’t have left, but, on the other side, just really proud of what we’ve done together and sad to see that piece come to an end.”