As championship sets in, Keselowski prepares for new yearBy Kelly Crandall
Brad Keselowski’s defense of his 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship doesn’t begin until the green flag falls on the Daytona 500 in a little over a month. But during winter testing at Daytona he was already warming up.
Keselowski was quick to call out his competitors in a ploy to get them to draft. He continued to speak in a champion’s manner about the future of the sport and the potential of NASCAR’s new car. And there was the fact that Keselowski wasn’t hiding the continual glow of his greatest accomplishment.
“I am slowly soaking it in so I don’t have a great answer for you but to me it has been a lot of fun just seeing some of the doors that open up,” he said Thursday in Daytona on how life has been the last few months. “It is really a vague way of putting it but some of the doors that open up, whether it is people showing you more respect or opportunities to do different events you may never have had before.
“To me that is the most fun and more honoring moments of being a champion. I am really looking forward to seeing how those open up. The great thing that separates winning a championship from winning a race is that you are a champion for a whole year. I feel like I won a race but you get to celebrate it for a whole year. That is a really good feeling.”
The upcoming season will be just his fourth full year. It comes with Paul Wolfe still atop the pit box, the man who has led him to both a Nationwide and Cup title. However, the flagship Dodge banner is gone from the iconic organization as Penske begins their coalition with Ford.
But Keselowski’s young career has taught him the importance of adaption and perseverance. The new make and model of his car will be another one of those lessons, one Keselowski confident his team will be able to do. Recently visiting the Ford team in Detroit, Keselowski said showed him that there are the necessary tools and resources to get the job done.
In addition, we know about new teammate Joey Logano. And the story of how he came to join Penske and Keselowski’s involvement. The goal is for Logano and Keselowski to make each other better, which in turn will make the company better. There’s a lot of potential, attitude and youth of Logano believes Keselowski and he’s ready to see how it all plays out.
“It is just a matter of putting the other pieces together with him. I feel like what I look for out of him is to do just that, make that car a contender week in and week out and if he is able to do that then I think it will make everyone at Penske stronger,” noted Keselowski.
“That is in all categories whether it is increasing the level of funding because of sponsorship or the other side of it of pushing me to be a batter driver and be more engaged. I am hoping for all those things across the board and it might be something as simple as attracting more talent throughout the pit crews or what not.”
Always with the company on mind and becoming better, Keselowski expects the same for his own team. Winning the championship last year doesn’t mean they’ll be content with however their 2013 campaign plays out.
“If you win a championship you are going to come in the next year with extremely high expectations. I don’t think that will surprise anyone,” said Keselowski. “You have to look at our history, and we have been a second half team the last two or three seasons and I would expect nothing different this year.
“If you look at the past and know that we are stronger the second half of the year and that is what we have done to be successful the last two seasons then that will carry you through any short comings at the start of the year. I am nervous that if we start strong we won’t be as good the second half.”
They won five races last year – three of which came after late June – and went toe-to-toe with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson during the Chase. The Miller Lite team did things their own way. Planned and never shied away from their own strategy, notably through fuel mileage races.
When they didn’t build the fastest cars they ran the perfect race and took what it gave them. More of the same is what Keselowski expects and should there be anything less, don’t expect Keselowski to defend it.
“I feel like I don’t want to build in an excuse for our team so I am not going to say that if we don’t run well at the start of the year we have nothing to worry about,” Keselowski stated.
“I am not going to build in that excuse. But I think you can apply things logistically and know we are the type of team that gets stronger throughout the year. That is probably the best way to be.”