He’s done it once. But can he do it again?
Brad Keselowski’s drive for a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship may depend on it after a mechanical failure in Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville Speedway forced him to swallow a 31st-place finish.
Once again in this Chase, Keselowski faces a must-win situation over the next two weeks at Texas and Phoenix.
We know what happened the last time he was in that spot, don’t we?
So, naturally, Keselowski is confident that he can make lightning strike twice.
“We were going to probably have ourselves a fifth- or sixth-place day [before the failure], which is certainly something we could be proud of and move forward with – but this kind of puts us in a position now where we need to win,” he said.
“This Chase lends itself to those moments and we’re a team that’s capable of them, so we’ll try to be as positive as we can and move forward with two more opportunities to do just that.”
Keselowski started toward the front of the field only to struggle with a poor handling car on the opening stint and tumble all the way down to 20th. He stayed mired in mid-pack and was penalized for speeding in the pits at Lap 162.
But as the race progressed past halfway, Keselowski and the No. 2 Team Penske crew appeared to have solved their problems as he worked his way into the Top 10.
He was running there when something broke on his car’s driveline with 65 laps to go. Now slowing on the track, Casey Mears then crashed into the back of him and multiple other drivers behind them were collected in the subsequent stack-up.
Once the red flag for the incident was lifted, Keselowski’s crew went to work and replaced his car’s rear differential. When he returned to the track, he’d fallen 28 laps off the pace.
With one opportunity gone, Keselowski now has to focus on Texas and Phoenix. Considering Penske’s stout pace on the big ovals, Fort Worth will be a big chance for him, and he’s also been solid at Phoenix too with three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in his last five starts there.
He acknowledges that his path to the Championship has gotten tougher. But as he himself proved, it can be walked – or driven, as it were.
“It’s not like we’re just gonna go and guarantee a win at Texas and Phoenix,” he said. “But it’s also not impossible and we’ve got the team, if there is one, to pull it off.”