All of Brad Keselowski’s hard work in the first three races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup – including a win in the opening race at Chicagoland and a runner-up showing in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway – is now all for naught.
Sure, Keselowski’s win at Chicagoland secured his advancement to and place in the Contenders Round (Races 4 through 6 of the 10-race Chase), but now that the Challengers Round (Races 1-3) is over, it’s time to start again from scratch says the 2012 Sprint Cup champ.
“Three more races, a new start, and what we were able to do in these last three, other than getting us to this next round, really mean nothing,” Keselowski said in Sunday’s post-race media conference. “We’ve got to keep our head on straight and push forward these next three (races) like we have these last three.”
Now comes the next three Chase races on a pair of 1.5-mile tracks and the always unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway.
“In some ways all the brackets are survival brackets, but that particular bracket is probably more so than the others,” Keselowski said. “Surviving Talladega is its own horror film title but it’s also a reality.
“That place is going to be a crazy place to finish that bracket out. Certainly there’s going to be a lot of guys on the bubble, and it’s probably all going to change on the last lap in the last corner.”
And as for the next two races, Kansas and Charlotte, it would appear the latter is the race Keselowski feels he has the best shot at.
“You probably can control your destiny more so at Charlotte than any other racetrack, which is good. We’re putting an emphasis on that race.
“But then I look at Kansas and say, since that track has been repaved, it seems to be very, very sensitive to aerodynamics and getting in a pack and spinning out with a really hard tire. Anything could happen there. It’s almost like a mini-Talladega in that sense.”
Even though the points are once again reset and all 12 remaining Chase contestants are back at a level playing field points-wise, Keselowski is still happy with his start in the Chase.
“Yeah, we’ve had a really good start, so we can’t really complain that much having won a race, and a second and a seventh,” he said. “But it’s hard to look at that. All I can think about is how I wanted to win all three races, and now it’s time to move forward.
“All in all, it’s going to be a real challenge, and if you can survive all three of these brackets and go to Homestead and win this thing, you’ve certainly earned it.”
Keselowski had a strong race Sunday, leading 78 of the 400 scheduled laps around the one-mile, all-concrete racetrack, the only one in Sprint Cup racing.
And while he’s looking forward to the next three tracks – he’s won a total of four times at all three – past performance doesn’t mean much to him, especially with the elimination format.
“Not really, no,” Keselowski said of having won previously at Charlotte, Kansas and ‘Dega. “I mean, it’s a confidence booster, but you don’t get anything for it, not that matters in the next bracket.
“I don’t think of it as anything more than a confidence boost and nothing else.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski