Team Penske bristles at idea that they are an underdog in title fight
According to VegasINSIDER.com Brad Keselowski is the biggest long shot to win the Monster Energy Cup Series championship on Sunday.
His current odds are 4:1. Overnight, Kevin Harvick has topped the sports book with 5:2 odds followed by Kyle Busch (2:1) and Martin Truex Jr. (7:4).
Still, Keselowski feels racing is too fluid to make an early call.
“Sitting here in this moment right now, it's kind of like everybody's got a poker hand and we haven't seen any cards,” Keselowski said. “The cards will start to get played Friday, and then with qualifying Friday night and again on Saturday with race practices and happy hours and so forth.
“I need to see some more cards before I can tell you. I know Vegas likes to have odds and all that going into it, but this is—and the people that have been around me long enough have heard me say this. This is a very dynamic sport. Although it may not seem like it until you step away from it, things change all the time. The drivers are changing. The sponsors are changing. The tracks ‑‑ well, those maybe don't change as much as they should. Who has speed and who doesn't have speed changes a lot.”
Leading up to Homestead-Miami Speedway and the Championship 4, Keselowski hasn’t had the fastest cars. He won at Talladega Superspeedway to transfer into the Round of 8. But Truex, Busch and Harvick have won since. Keselowski led the fewest laps (777) among the four contenders this season, and his average qualifying effort (8.9) and average finish (12.6) trail the other four drivers.
Not the underdog
Walt Czarnecki, Executive Vice President, Penske Corporation, bristled at the assumption Keselowski will be at a disadvantage on Sunday.
“First of all, I don't view our position as underdog,” Czarnecki said. “The fact that we are here does not make any of us underdogs. I think the level of the playing field is pretty level. I made a comment about how I've seen Brad mature as a driver and as a person, being able to handle the vagaries of this sport, the ups and downs of this sport. He certainly had his share this year with a sense of equanimity.
“He's going to do his job on Sunday. We as a team are obliged to give him a piece to be able to do that job effectively. I think we've had a pretty good year. I just wanted to mention a minor point. This is the winningest season in the history of Team Penske. We won 31 races this year, IndyCar championship, runner‑up for an owner championship in the XFINITY Series tomorrow. Clearly we're in the hunt for the Monster Energy Cup. In Australia we've had a great season, won 11 races, we're 20 points out in the championship there with two races to go.”
Czarnecki contends that the whole organization feeds off of the others success—including Keselowski.
“It's really developed a sense of confidence and enthusiasm in whether it's happening in Bathurst or Texas or Sonoma,” Czarnecki said. “I think Brad has been part of that.
“I will say this, I have seen him probably more focused in the second half of the season than in the several years he's been with this on this very weekend.”
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