By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than it is to be good. For Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, he found out just how lucky he can be as his rivals faltered. Now, Keselowski will advance into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Keselowski bounced from being inside the Championship Four to being outside throughout the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway. His No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion never competed for the victory, but stayed the course as other Playoff drivers experienced trouble. First, Jimmie Johnson cut a tire early. Then, a heated battle between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin saw Hamlin’s dominant No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry slam the outside wall.
Hamlin’s incident put Keselowski’s struggling car back into the Championship Four as long Elliott or Ryan Blaney didn’t win. Elliott surged to the lead, but ultimately fell back as eventual race winner Matt Kenseth caught him. With Keselowski now 13-points to the good, all he had to do was finish. Despite rising temperatures in the engine with eight laps to go, he nursed his car home in 16th, inside the Championship Four.
Keselowski admitted that he doesn’t want to repeat a race like this,
“We overcame a lot of obstacles and jumped a lot of hurdles today. I am glad I don’t have to relive this day, that is for sure. I am just looking forward to going to Homestead. This feels a little bit like Christmas. Sometimes you need a little luck on your side. Today we had that. It wasn’t by any means where we wanted to run. We wanted to run up front and have a shot for the win. That wasn’t in the cards. We tried to run the smartest race we could and survive and it ended up paying off in the end.”
Keselowski joins fellow Ford Performance driver Kevin Harvick as well as Toyota Racing’s Martin Truex, Jr and Kyle Busch as the four drivers battling for the championship. The 2012 Premier Series Champion will be battling for his second championship as well as for team owner Roger Penske’s second Premier Series title.
Keselowski thinks the manufacturer battle will be exciting,
“It is exciting. It is great. It is exciting to have the two Fords in there. The 4 has been really good and come on strong and I feel like we have put in a good effort here over the last few weeks to make sure we had a little more speed in our cars going to Homestead. We get in these types of situations and I think Brad will be able to find a little more and we just need to go down there and do what we do all year, give it our best. I think we will have a shot at this.”
At Homestead, Keselowski has is third in average finish among the four remaining Playoff drivers. He’s 10th among active drivers. Like Truex, Keselowski has not won at Homestead, but unlike Truex, Keselowski and his Team Penske team has struggled on 1.5-mile tracks for much of the season.
Now Keselowski, crew chief Paul Wolfe, and their Miller Lite team will look to overcome the statistics to earn a second Championship in five years.