BK Ready for Round of 12 Challenge

Brad Keselowski hardly broke a sweat, breezing through the Round of 16 relatively worry-free—but the points are now reset, and an entirely new animal emerges in the Round of 12.

Featuring two mile-and-a-half tracks sandwiched around a trip to the treacherous Talladega Superspeedway, the Round of 12 is sure to increase the playoff intensity. The first 1.5-mile track comes this weekend in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Bank of America 500. While BK enters the Round of 12 in fourth place, he’s not taking lightly the challenge that lies ahead.

“I see those two mile-and-a-halves (Charlotte and Kansas) which is mostly about the aerodynamics, and that’s important to get all that right,” Brad said. “And then Talladega which is just…”

Brad boasts four career wins at Talladega, more than any other track, but he’s well aware that he can’t take the challenge lightly. The Team Penske driver believes that the restrictor-plate track’s unpredictable nature will be magnified in the current stage format.

“I felt like before the stages it was a little easier to control your destiny there. You could run up front and kind of stay away from it all,” BK said. “Then with the stages, you could run up front, somebody would short pit and cycle you to the back. … That just mixes up the field; it means there’s no safe place to be.”

With that in mind, up-front finishes and strong points days will be highly coveted this weekend at Charlotte as drivers look to pad their points going into Dega. BK knows that he and crew chief Paul Wolfe will have to be on their game, as the race for stage points will be fierce.

“Those stages are (crucial), as they were meant to be. They were meant to put an emphasis on running up front early in a race and not just riding around and cruising,” Brad said. “You can run fifth and not score any stage points and you’re not going to score the fifth-most points on the day, you’re going to score about the 10th-most points.”

Fortunately, BK has mustered up some magic in this playoff race at Charlotte before. Amid a 2012 Championship hangover in the 2013 season, Brad raced his way to his first career win at the 1.5-mile Carolina track—his only win of that down campaign.

He also has three XFINITY Series wins to his name at Charlotte, two of which came in the fall. He has a history of CMS consistency at NASCAR’s second level, finishing in the Top 10 in 14 of his 18 starts.

Brad was on a string of four straight Top 10 finishes at the Monster Energy Cup Series level before this season’s earlier trip to Charlotte. Kes hit an oil slick and smashed into a spinning Chase Elliott, ending his Coca-Cola 600 run just 19 laps in.

“We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford and I think we had a shot at winning tonight, but that’s how it goes,” Brad said after the wreck.

The Alliance 2 Crew will look to replicate that speed this weekend. First practice is set of 1:30 p.m. ET on Friday, followed by qualifying under the lights at 7:20 p.m. The final two practice sessions are set for 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Bank of America 500 is scheduled for a 2 p.m. ET start on Sunday and will air on NBC.

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