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

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/