Chase Capsules: Brad Keselowski

Leave a comment

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

MRTI: Road America preview

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires were last in action on the same day – May 25 – though at separate venues. The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Freedom 100, where Colton Herta emerged victorious.

Meanwhile, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda were at Lucas Oil Raceway for the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda) and Freedom 75 (USF2000) – Parker Thompson and Kyle Kirkwood dominated their respective races and claimed victories to extend their championship leads.

All three series reunite at Road America for double headers this weekend, with a close title fight developing in Indy Lights, while the championship leaders in Pro Mazda and USF2000 (the aforementioned Thompson and Kirkwood) look to build on already strong leads.

Previews of all three series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Colton Herta enters Road America as the hottest driver in the Mazda Road to Indy, having swept the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – he won both races on the IMS Road Course and outdueled Pato O’Ward, Dalton Kellett, and Santi Urrutia to win the Freedom 100. He leads O’Ward by six points, while Urrutia is 21 out of the lead, but don’t think that they’re the only ones who may factor into things.
  • Victor Franzoni had been getting better with every race, and had two podiums on the season entering the Freedom 100, but multiple problems saw him finish eighth and drop him to 50 points out of the lead. Franzoni appears to have the speed to challenge for wins, and he’ll need a win soon if he is to get into title contention.
  • Wisconsin native Aaron Telitz looks to rebound at his home track after a down weekend in the Freedom 100, in which he finished sixth. Teltiz had a run of fourth, third, and second in the three races prior, so the speed is most certainly there to steal a race win, and doing so at his home track would be a massive thrill for him.

Pro Mazda

Parker Thompson has been showing the way in Pro Mazda in 2018. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Parker Thompson has been the dominant Pro Mazda driver in the first half of the season, with three wins, five podiums, and a worst finish of fifth through seven races. As a result, Thompson holds a sizeable lead of 40 points over second-place Carlos Cunha. It’s way too early for anyone to start playing “prevent,” but Thompson is most certainly the man to beat at the moment.
  • Given that his Juncos Racing teammates, Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis, came into the season as perhaps slightly more heralded, it may surprise some that Cunha is the closest rival to Thompson at this point. Though he doesn’t yet have a win, he has back-to-back second place finishes, and also has a pair of third-place efforts this year as well. The 18-year-old Brazilian has made a big jump from last year, and a win may be beckoning for him this weekend.
  • Harrison Scott and David Malukas look to rebound after they crashed in the Freedom 90. It leaves them 68 points (Scott) and 78 points (Malukas) out of the lead. It will be tough for them to get back into title contention, but race wins and/or podiums at Road America would certainly be a big help regardless.
  • The aforementioned VeeKay looks to get back on championship form at Road America, which he swept last year, while teammate Megennis looks for back-to-back podiums after finishing third in the Freedom 90.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood currently has a huge USF2000 points lead. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Kyle Kirkwood is starting to run away with the USF2000 championship, with a staggering 59-point lead over second place Alex Baron. The 19-year-old from Florida has things far from wrapped up, but he certainly has a stranglehold of the championship at the moment, and if he can keep things clean, it will become harder and harder for drivers to make up ground.
  • Interestingly, title rival Baron is perhaps the faster driver of the two, but Baron’s season is plagued by a 22nd-place effort in Race 1 on the streets of St. Petersburg, and a 21st at the Freedom 90. He’ll need a string of race wins to get back into contention, and Road America would be a good place to start.
  • Jose Sierra sits third, only five points behind Baron, and looks to add to his two podiums this year (second in St. Pete Race 1, and third in Race 1 on the IMS Road Course). And, if both Kirkwood and Baron falter, he could be primed to steal a win.
  • Igor Fraga sits fourth and looks to continue a consistent effort from the opening five races, with fifth place drivers Lucas Kohl and Rasmus Lindh (tied on 74 points apiece) looking to do the same.
  • Kaylen Frederick got his first podium of the year in the Freedom 75, finishing second to Kirkwood. It is only his second finish inside the Top 10 this year (ninth in St. Pete Race 2 is the other), and he’ll look to build off that effort moving forward.

Pro Mazda has practice and Race 1 qualifying on Thursday, with Race 1 on Friday and Race 2 on Saturday. Indy Lights and USF2000 practice on Friday, with their races on Saturday (Race 1 for both) and Sunday (Race 2 for both). A full weekend schedule can be viewed here.

Follow@KyleMLavigne