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Interview
NASCAR Cup Bristol II

"Survivorship mentality" fuels Keselowski's NASCAR playoff run

When it comes to his approach to this season’s NASCAR Cup playoffs, it’s all about the destination for Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, BuildSubmarines.com Ford Mustang

The objective is to reach the Championship 4 race at Phoenix – that path that gets you there is not important.

It could be a string of consistently strong finishes, or it could include victories in “must-win” scenarios like Christopher Bell did twice last year.

In any case, Keselowski sees the playoff journey simply as one of “survival” even though some might say his finishes of sixth and ninth in the first two races show he is among the few excelling thus far.

“Surviving and thriving may not always be the same. But, sometimes surviving is thriving in the playoffs with the way these things are set up. I guess I have a different perspective on it,” Keselowski said.

“I want to get through each round the best we can and then move on. Ultimately, if you get to the Championship 4, nobody else cares about the nine races before that. Conversely, you can win two or three races and not make the final four and it still not be considered a good year.

“I think the way that this thing is set up, you have to just continuously survive. It’s a survivorship mentality.”

Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Castrol Edge Ford Mustang

Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Castrol Edge Ford Mustang

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

With only Saturday night’s race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway remaining in the first round, Keselowski is fifth in the playoff standings and in excellent position to advance, whether he picks up a win this weekend or not.

However, he remains keenly aware the benefit he has gained with a pair of strong runs to kick off the 2023 title fight can disappear almost as quickly as it was earned.

“You look at these scenarios and there’s a lot of opportunities to be aggressive and gain some positions, but they come at a higher risk. You’re just constantly doing risk analysis,” Keselowski said.

“In real time, it does make it harder, but again, it’s part of why the drivers make the money they do and what makes them special. They have to always be performing in real-time risk analysis, the moves that we make and how hard we drive the car.

“That’s a lot of the fun for me.”

The 39-year-old co-owner and driver of RFK Racing also has the added responsibility of doing what he can to ensure his teammate, Chris Buescher, also remains a viable championship contender.

Getting both cars into the next round

Right now, both drivers appear in a good position entering Bristol and RFK would love to have both cars advance to the Round of 12.

Buescher, who has won three races this season, is ninth in the standings, but just 13 points above the transfer line.

Buescher, however, did win this race one year ago, while Keselowski finished 13th but led 109 laps.

“It’s good to have both cars in the black, and not in the red when it comes to points. Of course, the No. 6 car having a good 30-something point cushion, which is enough to feel pretty comfortable as long as we just don’t have a complete disaster of a race,” Keselowski said.

“The No. 17, still having a cushion somewhere over 10 points – I think he’s 12 or 13 up – that’s better than nothing certainly and better than being in the red. But, not as much as we’d hoped – with Chris having the failure there with the tire at the end of the race in Kansas really shook things up.

“That was unfortunate, but I’m pretty confident that we can have two strong cars and good runs this weekend. Looking forward to repeating our results from last fall at Bristol.”

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