Chase Capsules: Brad Keselowski

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2-Brad Keselowski
Team: Team Penske
Crew Chief: Paul Wolfe
NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships: 1 (2012)
3rd Chase Appearance, Best Finish of 1st in 2012

Regular Season Recap: Inconsistency forced Brad Keselowski to give up his Sprint Cup title without a fight when he failed to make last year’s Chase. But early on in 2014, he made sure he’d be contending for a second championship by taking the checkered flag in Las Vegas. He’s since added three more wins at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Richmond, and he’s also bettered the number of Top-5 finishes that he had all of last year. All in all, an impressive turnaround from a disappointing 2013.

Chris’ Take: With stout equipment that can put up a fight against the Hendrick Motorsports camp, Keselowski definitely has the potential to race into the Homestead finale. Remember that he’s also got two wins on 1.5-mile, intermediate tracks, which make up half of the 10-race Chase.

Considering that such a 1.5-mile track, Chicagoland, and New Hampshire (where he won in July) are the first two on the docket, I could see him taking a win at either one to put himself into the Contender Round and then bank solid finishes all the way to Homestead.

Keselowski and crew chief Wolfe learned some rough lessons last year, and their hunger to get to the top again cannot be underestimated. They could hound the Hendrick camp to the bitter end.

Jerry’s Take: Brad Keselowski is bound and determined to prove that 2012 (when he won the Sprint Cup championship) was not a fluke, and that 2013 (when he failed to defend his crown, not even making the Chase) was the real fluke.

The key for success in the Chase will be for Keselowski to get off to a strong start at Chicago, where he has won before.

Honestly, I envision him getting past the first round (third race of 10 Chase events), but my gut says he gets eliminated after the second round (sixth race).

Tony’s Take: Welcome back to the 2012 champ a year after he missed out a year ago. The Brad K of 2014 is a more dangerous animal than in 2012. Then, he had to prove he could win a championship. Now, with one already in the bank, it’s about earning number two.

All year both Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano have qualified well, and that’s put them in solid position to capture more victories. He should get at least one if not two Chase wins, and seems a very solid bet to rival the Hendrick contingent all the way to Homestead.

Brad Keselowski’s Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – One win, 2 Top-5s, 3 Top-10s in 5 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – One win, 4 Top-5s, 6 Top-10s in 10 starts
Dover (1 mile) – One win, 3 Top-5s, 3 Top-10s in 9 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – One win, 2 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 9 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – One win, 2 Top-5s, 3 Top-10s in 10 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – Two wins, 3 Top-5s, 6 Top-10s in 11 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – No wins, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10s in 9 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – No wins, 1 Top-5, 3 Top-10s in 12 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – No wins, 3 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 10 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 1 Top-10 in 6 starts

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.