Brad Keselowski focus remains solely on winning at Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. – The most pressing questions of the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway are in order:
1. Why does everyone seem to hate Brad Keselowski?
2. Will anyone be so bold as to turn the No. 2 Ford Fusion into the wall during Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500?
The answers to Question 1 range from jealousy to contempt. The answers for Question 2 range from unlikely to never say never.
For his part, Keselowski doesn’t really seem to care. -- not about what others think and not about actions beyond his control.
His focus remains solely on winning at Phoenix and finding a way into the final four for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Whatever happens there, I’ll get through it, just like I have this past week.
To be fair, not every rival hates Keselowski. They respect the obvious talents of the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, who came within a whisker of earning his sixth Coors Light Pole Award of the season Saturday at Phoenix.
What some don’t appreciate is Keselowski’s reluctance to discuss on-track issues that arise. Such was the case last week at Texas Motor Speedway where lack of immediate communication fueled emotions between Keselowski’s Penske Racing crew and Jeff Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports cohorts.
In the middle of the storm since then, Keselowski has chosen to ignore it as best he can, just as his critics say he chooses to ignore them.
In the end, he’s not about to change his aggressive style on the track that has produced a Sprint Cup-high six victories this season or his style off the track, which might never be adopted by the Dale Carnegie handbook.
“I’m not looking to become what everyone else wants me to become,” Keselowski said. “So, I have not spent a lot of time on that rhetoric and I don’t wish to spend a lot of time trying to justify anything I do or don’t do.
“I feel pretty good about the actions I’ve taken. Certainly I’m not perfect. I’ve made some bad ones, but I didn’t make any bad ones last week and I still feel that way.”
Following his contact on the track with Gordon, Keselowski was thrust into the post-race fray thanks to a shove from Kevin Harvick. Coincidentally, Harvick will start third, right behind Keselowski in Sunday’s race.
Keselowski says he can’t be concerned about getting a different sort of assertive push from any driver during the race.
“I probably need to win the race (to advance in the Chase). That’s my concern,” he said. “I want to have the most speed that I can have. I want to have the best execution, whether that’s (on) restarts or pit road. Those are my concerns. Beyond that, I haven’t put any thought into it.
“My answer to all that other junk is I plan on being in this sport for a long time. Whatever happens there, I’ll get through it, just like I have this past week.”
Keselowski called the likelihood of another driver attempting to take him out of contention “doubtful.”
Despite his third-place finish at Texas, Keselowski goes into Sunday’s race seventh in points, four behind Gordon for the final qualifying position for Championship Weekend. He believes that winning Sunday’s race is the only real way to presume he will advance.
Of course, Keselowski’s back was rigidly against the wall when he delivered a victory at Talladega to advance to the Chase’s Eliminator Round.
“Technically, I don’t have to win this race, but the probabilities are that I do,” he said. “I think it will be very hard to pass three cars in points. These are good drivers and good teams. There’s a reason why they’re this far in the Chase and to beat all three of those by five spots, that’s a tough task for anyone to really feel good about. But you know if you win you’re in and that’s the great thing about this system.
“We had great speed here in the spring and it seems like we maybe found a little bit more, so I’m very, very optimistic. Obviously the 11 (Denny Hamlin) is on the pole. Kevin (Harvick) has really run well here for probably the last five or six races. He’ll be one of the guys to beat. So, it should be a great battle come Sunday. I’m looking forward to it.”
Seth Livingstone - NASCAR News Service