Brad Keselowski focused on getting the job done this weekendBy Ashley McCubbin
Coming into the weekend, Brad Keselowski leads Jimmie Johnson by 20 points and has to finish 15th or better to the win the championship if Johnson leads the most laps and wins the race. With having control over his own destiny, Keselowski is focused on running well and nothing less.
The Rockwell Hills, Michigan native figures if he does that, everything else will take care of itself.
“With maybe the exception of the last lap or two, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where I’m at on the racetrack, or I should, and that stuff works its way out if we’re in a good position,” he added during the champion’s press conference on Thursday.
There are those that have said maybe Keselowski should play it safe, however Keselowski feels it is better to stick to what got them to this point as it has worked up until now. He says you can’t play it safe, relating it back to one of his favorite movies.
“One of my favorite movies in the whole wide world is this documentary on Ayrton Senna, and there’s this really powerful scene in that movie that sticks with me when I think about this weekend,” Keselowski explained. “I think about this scene in the movie when they talked about him at Monaco, which was his — just his phenomenal track that he was so strong at and how he had this huge lead over his teammate at the time, obviously had an identical car, which showcased what kind of talent Ayrton had, and they were coming down to the closing laps of the race, and they told him to slow down, you have a huge lead, don’t worry, just slow down, just — and he wrecked.
While Keselowski is staying focused on just running well, Jimmie Johnson mentioned during that same press conference that the magnitude of possibly winning the championship will set in at some point for Keselowski.
“I’ve been the guy leading the points, and people are so curious to know all these what-ifs, what if it happens, and you’re forced to answer questions that you’re not used to answering, that you don’t want to answer, and it builds through the course of the week,” Johnson commented. “Again, it hits everybody differently, and there’s no guarantees how it’ll hit him. But I know from my own experience that there have been those moments. Fortunately I responded well to them. We’ll see how the weekend goes.”
However, Keselowski says that this weekend doesn’t feel different than any other weekend this year.
“Homestead pays the same amount of points as Chicago did and the same amount of points that Martinsville did when Jimmie won,” he said. “It’s the same, and there’s no reason to change that approach, and that’s why I feel that way.”
For Keselowski, he has never been in this situation before as this marks just his third full season in the Sprint Cup Series. Already, the 28-year-old has a shot at making history – becoming the first driver from Michigan to win a Sprint Cup Championship.
“Obviously I’m very proud of the roots that I have back in Michigan and specifically in the metro Detroit area, and have strong roots still to the area with my family living there and car owner, who’s based out of the Detroit area,” Keselowski said. “I think it would be a very powerful moment for sure, at least for me and hopefully for the area and the community.
“So anything that we can do to serve that just plays into some of the heritage of our team and makes us stronger.”
Keselowski also has the possibility of bringing Roger Penske home his first NASCAR Championship. Penske has won championships in the Rolex Sports Car Series and in IndyCar, however has yet to do the same in NASCAR.
“You look at his legacy in the sport and you can’t help but feel that he’s been a little bit slighted on the NASCAR side,” Keselowski said. “We’d like to get that job done, and I think we have the opportunity to do it. I think we have the team and car, and it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.”
Penske has already lost one championship this year as he looked to have a good shot to win the IndyCar Championship with Will Power, however lost in the final race when Power had a bad run. Instead, Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay brought home the championship.
In going into this weekend, Keselowski says he’s relying on the support group around him to help him get through it and win.
“I can tell you that the group that I have and that I’m surrounded by, whether it’s in my personal life or professional life, they’re not known for being very rattled in these opportunities, in these positions,” he said. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing that you can do is be surrounded by people that share that same passion that you have but also put out a level of calmness that is somewhat addictive.
“I feel like if you look at Paul, Paul is pretty stone-faced, and that’s his style. He’s not a real emotional guy, and certainly you cue off of that, just like Jimmie was saying he does with Chad, and there’s other guys. You look at Roger, Roger is the same way. You’re not going to see Roger showing a bunch of emotion even if we do win it. He’s going to be very stoic, as he always is, which is great.”
He adds that on the family side, his parents have had their successes, are passionate and happy, but they are quiet and able to not get caught up in the moment.
How Keselowski will run is a question that many have questioned as he has finished no better than 13th (2010) at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In four starts at the Florida track, Keselowski has placed 20th or worse three times. However, Keselowski has defied the odds at tracks in past as tracks have shown to be bad statistically, yet he has still managed to shine. As Keselowski noted on Thursday, he doesn’t crunch numbers – that’s not his style.
“I know if we go out there and just do our job, everything will take care of itself,” he said. “To put your focus on those other things is just another distraction that doesn’t serve the goal that we have. So I haven’t done it.”