Sprint Summer Showdown: Keselowski Changing Perception One Race at a Time

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Atlanta Motor Speedway – AdvoCare 500 race on Sept. 4 is sure to deliver plenty of excitement. Winning next few races in the series requires a well handling car even more than a fast car. The Atlanta track under the lights on Labor Day weekend will require drivers to be flexible. With just two more races before the Chase begins, things are heating up.

For the folks who have not gotten on the Keselowski Express, it is time.  He has perfect handling, right in time. Plus,

despite only one good leg – a hunger to find Victory Lane. Don’t miss out, Brad has been on fire in the last five races, and he hasn’t finished worse than third in the last four events. He came from virtually nowhere after breaking his ankle in a testing crash at Road Atlanta, and has virtually locked himself into the Chase with his recent performances. He won the night race Saturday at Bristol and shows no signs of slowing down.

How has this ‘Cinderella Season’ all been possible:

Captain’s Vision: At this point last season, Keselowski did not have the fairy-tale ending he faces day.  He had zero top ten finishes but Roger Penske saw potential after Keselowski’s win at Talladega in April 2009 and brought him to the Penske Team in the iconic Miller Lite Dodge.  The rest is history; there have been no regrets for the 2011 season. Turns out, it was a wise move.

The New Sprit Point System: The new system is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Keselowski will be a Chaser come September and a contender deep into the 10-race playoff. By doling out a wild-card spot, plus recent performance on the track it is very certain the Keselowski will definitely take full advantage of new Chase system.

Leader in the Pit: Together young driver and you crew chief, Paul Wolfe make a great team in the charge for Sprint Cup Series prestige. Wolfe was with “Special K” for win at last years Nationwide championship, a season during which Keselowski won six times, captured five poles and scored a series-record 26 top-five finishes in 35 races. Now they’re on a Sprint Cup tear. Wolfe appears to be the next crew chief superstar, and these two have done it right. As a former driver himself who made 16 starts in the Nationwide Series during the 2003 through 2005 seasons, Wolfe obviously speaks the same racing language as the still up-and-coming Keselowski.

Maturity and Respect for Sport: Previously known as one of NASCAR’s bad boys, Keselowski hasn’t been involved in a big feud this year as he has in previous Cup seasons. Under the guidance of fellow Penske Racing teammates and owner, Keselowski has matured and departed from feuds and poor decisions, fans sometimes see in drivers. Keselowski has dialed into what motivated him to start racing- his ability on the track.  In recent SBNation interview he commented, “I want to have a fan base who likes me for who I am and what I do performance-wise, but I understand there’s more to this sport than that. And I don’t try to hide from that. Certainly as I continue to perform better and better, I would like to think I would get more recognition for performance. That’s a large goal of mine.” It seems the twenty seven year old driver is calming down in 4th year of NASCAR circuit. Either that or breaking a limb is mellowing him out.

Focus: His sole focus, this season was to secure a spot in the Chase, now after Saturdays performance gears have changes to Championship. There have been no outside distractions except for maybe that ankle brake earlier in the summer. But obviously after the performances he has been showing since the accident is has only forced him to become even more laser focused.

KISS: Keselowski and his team have become poster children for the KISS (Keep-It-Simple-Stupid) philosophy. “This sport in its simplest form is just about winning,” Keselowski said. “Why make it any more complicated than that? If you’ve got cars to win, go out there and win. If you don’t, get the best finish you can.”

‘Lucky’ seven?

Track Start Finish Pts. Standing
Kentucky 6 7 21
New Hampshire 5 35 23
Indianapolis 5 9 21
Pocono 13 1 18
Watkins Glen 12 2 14
Michigan 6 3 12
Bristol 8 1 11

The win in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol almost certainly added to Keselowski’s notoriety in the pursuit for claiming season champion in the top tier of NASCAR, which begins Sept. 18 at the Chicagoland Speedway. The amazing string of top three finishes took Keselowski from an afterthought at 21st overall in the standings to a serious challenger to push Hendrick star Jimmie Johnson off his throne covered with five consecutive NASCAR titles.

Brad has a few more races to secure before Chicagoland Speedway and $3 million purse.  This weekend he along with Ambrose, Busch and Menard are the four drivers eligible for $1 million if any of the four wins the AdvoCare 500 over Labor Day weekend. The Sprint Summer Showdown was introduced earlier this summer as a way to up the level of competition for the five Cup Series events leading up to Atlanta. Each eligible driver will be paired up with a lucky fan, and both the fan and a charity of the driver’s choice will have a chance to win $1 million. Keselowski’s charity is the Checkered Flag Foundation.

Tune in on Sunday to see Keselowki lead the Penske Racing Team in Atlanta.

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