Category Archives: cars

Brad Reflects on Season at NASCAR Awards

Close, but no cigar.

That was the sentiment expressed by Brad Keselowski at the annual NASCAR Awards, held at the end of each season to honor the top drivers, and celebrate the Cup champion.

Winning does not define you as a professional athlete, handling defeat builds character and in Brad Keselowski’s memorable speech showcasing Martin Truex’s Jr. first championship, he displays the strong character that has made him so likable in NASCAR. Overall, NASCAR isn’t just won on the track, as Keselowski demonstrated via a humble speech to the champion of the 2017 season Martin Truex Jr.

The video below displays rivals Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski exchanging friendly jabs with the question, “What are you buying Brad Keselowski for Christmas?” at the 13:20 mark.

As the crowd erupts in laughter they amuse the crowd for a couple more seconds. 

Kurt Busch: I swear, that guy’s reading a road map as he’s driving.

Brad Keselowski: Is it a left?

Ryan Newman: Sometimes in the middle of the straightaway.

Watch NASCAR drivers roast each other during Champion’s Week in Vegas

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BK Set For Clash at Daytona

Long a staple of the season-opening Speedweeks at Daytona, the annual Clash exhibition race is making a move from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon in 2018.

NASCAR announced on Monday that fans will get a double-dose of racing action to open the 2018 season on Sunday, February 11, with The Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway capping a day that starts with Coors Light Pole Award qualifying for the 60th Annual Daytona 500.

“A double-header, featuring The Clash and Daytona 500 qualifying, is a great way to start the 2018 season,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “The urgency created by the non-points race sets a tone for the season, providing a strong preview of the competition we expect will be a mainstay all year long.”

A star-studded lineup of elite drivers will battle in the 75-lap event which airs live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 3 p.m. ET. The annual preseason race will be run in two segments, with a competition caution at lap 25 separating the segments.

Consistent with the eligibility criteria used to determine last year’s Clash field, there is no pre-determined number of cars. The exclusive field is limited to drivers who were 2017 Coors Light Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2017 and drivers who qualified for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Eligible drivers included all 14 Coors Light Pole Award winners from the 2017 season, a list that includes Brad Keselowski thanks to his pole award wins at Las Vegas and Michigan. The other 13 who qualified for the Clash based on pole award wins are:  Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr.

Additionally any former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners and 2017 Playoff drivers who didn’t win a pole award in 2017 are still qualified for the race. That adds six drivers to the field: Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman, bringing the total to 20. For the first time in years, they’ll race in the afternoon sunshine instead of under the lights at Daytona this coming February.

“For four decades, the Advance Auto Parts Clash has been a staple of the Speedweeks lineup,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “The event has a rich history and serves as a preview to the Can-Am Duel qualifying races and the DAYTONA 500. Combining the Advance Auto Parts Clash and DAYTONA 500 Qualifying on the same day will deliver race fans a full day of NASCAR action.”

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2 Crew Falls Short in Finale at Homestead

Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team did all they could to battle for their second championship on Sunday afternoon, but without elite speed, they fell short of their title hopes at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kes earned a spot as one of the Championship 4 alongside Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, giving him a shot at his second title at the Monster Energy Cup Series level. Unfortunately, his White Lite didn’t have the speed to contend with the Toyotas of Truex and Busch as he finished seventh in the Ford EcoBoost 400 to finish fourth—the second-best finish of his Cup career.

“We ran as hard as we could and put it all out there and just basically didn’t have enough speed,” Brad said. “On the mile-and-a-halfs, we weren’t as good as the 78 and 18 and those guys. This last race coming down to a mile-and-a-half didn’t particularly bode well for us, but my team ran as hard as they could run. They made some great calls—Paul Wolfe and everybody and put ourselves in position every chance we could to make the most out of the opportunities that existed without just being lightning fast, but it wasn’t there.”

BK qualified fifth for the final race of the 2017 season, though Kes knew coming in that his Ford couldn’t match the Toyota muscle on mile-and-a-half tracks. Right from the start, BK and Wolfe went off sequence. A caution flag flew just six laps into the day, and Wolfe called his driver to pit road while the leaders stayed out.

Brad restarted 13th at lap 10 and used his fresh tires to carve through the field to second place. He finished the first stage in the second position, first among all remaining championship contenders.

As the sun set, the Miller Lite Ford swung loose, causing Brad to slip to fifth place—a microcosm of the race for the No. 2 team, as they never quite had the speed to make it stick up front.

“We’ve just got to be faster,” BK said. “We can’t show up and be that far behind on the mile-and-a-halves. We know that. That Toyota car is a good ways in front of us and we’ve got to figure that out.”

At lap 122, Brad pitted from fifth, and fourth among championship drivers. On this cycle, Wolfe elected to short-pit, an action that brought the rest of the field on to pit road. Kes was holding strong in the top-five when Danica Patrick hit the wall at lap 142, bringing the field to pit road. Wolfe’s fitted Brad with a short-run setup on with 10 laps to go in Stage 2, helping him charge his way to fourth with a strong restart. However, he couldn’t hold off Busch toward the end of the run and he finished the second stage in fifth.

Kes restarted seventh for the final 100 laps but was bottled up, causing him to fall to 11th on the restart. He worked his way back to ninth before pitting under green at lap 198. The 2 Crew helped vault him to sixth when the field cycled, where he remained when the season’s final caution flag flew at lap 229.

The 2012 Cup Champion restarted seventh for the final 34 laps, but he didn’t have the power to advance over the closing laps, settling for a seventh-place finish while Martin Truex Jr. won his first MENCS title.

“You’re always gonna be disappointed when you don’t win the championship here, but I’m not disappointed in the effort,” Brad said. “There was a lot of great effort from my whole team and that’s something I was proud of.”

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Ford EcoBoost 400

“Homestead is a lot different than Phoenix. Hopefully we can find what we need to run up front there and catch some breaks and win it. I am very hopeful for that. I am proud of the whole team.”

– @KESELOWSKI

RACE SNAPSHOT

START

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FINISH

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LAPS LED

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POINTS EARNED

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+ BRAD, MARTIN TRUEX JR., KEVIN HARVICK AND KYLE BUSCH EACH ENTER THE WINNER-TAKE-ALL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE TIED WITH 5,000 POINTS.

+ BK’S HOMESTEAD STATISTICS: 9 STARTS, 3 TOP 10S, 2 TOP 5S, BEST FINISH: 3RD (2014, 2015), 106 LAPS LED

+ THE LAST TIME KES WENT TO HOMESTEAD WITH A SHOT AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP, HE DELIVERED, FINISHING 15TH TO BRING HOME THE CUP TITLE IN 2012.

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2 Crew Advances to Cup Series Championship

Brad Keselowski will be racing for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship this Sunday at Homestead.

That was the end result of a wild day at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday that saw BK’s spot in the finals threatened by strong runs at the win from Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. But ultimately it was Matt Kenseth who crossed victorious in the desert, allowing BK, who finished 16th after a rough weekend, to advance to the championship race on points.

“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,” Brad said after advancing. “I am just looking forward to going to Homestead with this Miller Lite Ford team. We probably should have been locked in after Martinsville with the effort we put in that weekend so if this is a little bit of redemption then I am happy for all these guys. We’ve had a good year and they deserve a shot at another championship. We have that now and we will make the most of it.”

The Deuce lacked the speed necessary to compete for a race win in Phoenix that would’ve locked BK into the championship automatically. Instead, the 2 Crew had to their best with what they had, keep the Miller Lite Ford Fusion as clean and free of incident as possible and then hope that one of the four other playoff drivers not already locked into the championship: Hamlin, Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Jimmie Johnson failed to win that automatic entry.

Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion, was a non-factor as a mid-race wreck knocked his struggling No. 48 car from contention. Blaney, who will be BK’s teammate at Team Penske next season, sat on the pole but after leading the first 11 laps never again made it back to the front. But Hamlin and Elliott were factors all day, leaving the 2 Crew on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Meanwhile, BK scuffled through a fairly uneventful day. The 2 Crew did their best to make adjustments on the Miller Lite Ford, which finished the first segment further back (in 18th) than they’d started the day (16th). A bump from the team’s adjustments after the first segment allowed Brad to move up a bit to 13th, but he still failed to score any stage points.

BK finally started to gain some ground late in the race, and that’s when things got wild. After leading 193 laps and nabbing 19 stage points at Phoenix, Hamlin had a leg up on Brad in points with under 50 laps to go. But with Brad running seventh, Hamlin and the other closest threat for the championship spot, Elliott, got together for some rough racing on the one-mile desert oval.

Elliott clearly had the stronger machine at this point, but Hamlin fought him tooth and nail, and the two eventually made contact that brushed Hamlin against the wall. Elliott moved by and it seemed as though Hamlin would survive, but a few laps later, his tire went down as a result of the earlier contact, Hamlin hit the wall hard and his day was done.

That left Elliott as the lone real threat to the spot. During the ensuing caution, crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to bring the Deuce down pit road for four fresh tires. As a result, Brad feel back outside of the Top 15, where he stayed for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, Elliott eventually grabbed the lead and appeared prime to grab his first career win and send the 2 Crew home empty-handed. But with less than 20 laps to go, Kenseth started to close the gap and he passed Elliott for the lead with 10 to go.

From there, the 2 Crew was in waiting mode, hoping to finish the day without a caution. Things got a little scary during that 10 lap period as the temps in the Miller Lite Ford started to spike, but Brad nursed it to the end and there was no yellow to give Elliott another chance as Kenseth cruised to the checkered flag.

So, despite a middling 16th place finish, Brad’s consistent performance throughout the playoffs locked him into the championship race on points alone and he will race Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the championship next weekend at Homestead-Miami.

“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.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship race is slated for this Sunday, November 19 from Homested-Miami Speedway. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC with the green flag for the final race of the 2017 season slated to wave at around 2:45 p.m. ET.

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Honoring Our Veterans

With Veterans Day this weekend, I wanted to use my blog to honor our nation’s military, and speak specifically about some of the things we’re doing to help veterans lead better lives, especially back in my native state of Michigan.

Anyone who is a fan of mine knows how highly I regard our soldiers and first responders. I come from a military family, and as I’ve written before, when I win a race and fly the American flag afterward, it’s because of what it means to the people who see it—in particular, our veterans. Maybe it makes people feel good about the fact that they served. Maybe it reminds people of their parents or family members service. Hopefully, anyone who served feels honored by the gesture.

When I fly the flag after a win, it’s to honor our military and first responders.

NASCAR has a long history of honoring veterans. When it was founded in 1948, a lot of the people involved with the sport were former members of the military. Because of all the history, there’s a real connection between the world of racing and the military that’s pretty unique to NASCAR. A lot of the qualities of the military made their way into our sports. Racing teams have to have discipline and follow orders, or bad things can happen. You spend a lot of time traveling from place to place, and the road and your team become your home away from home for a lot of the year.

A PLACE TO CALL HOME

A big difference, though, is that when our veterans come home from their service, they often face new challenges. When I drove for Dale Jr.’s NAVY team, I started meeting with recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, seeing what they’d been through and hearing their stories. And then when I moved to Team Penske, they had a long-standing relationship with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, so I’ve had a chance to interact with that organization as well. It profoundly affected me. The experiences I’ve had with members of our military through my foundation, the Checkered Flag Foundation, have deepened my appreciation for soldiers, and the incredible sacrifices that they and their families make for all of us.

I came to understand that when veterans come home, they really need places that will provide them the support that they need. That’s why I’m excited to talk about a few things that we’re doing this weekend, and beyond.

The Tribute2Veterans Miller Lite No. 2 Ford Fusion features the names of around the entire car.

The first is the Tribute2Veterans, which my foundation did in partnership with Team Penske and Miller Lite to raise money for veterans. Fans and families of service men and women nominated a person that has sacrificed for our country, and each nominee will have their name displayed on the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. (The same list will actually appear on Chase Briscoe’s No. 29 Checkered Flag Foundation truck in Friday’s race, too.) Afterward, each person will receive a piece of the No. 2 car’s sheet metal that shows their name along with a photo of the car and a letter of thanks. I’m so grateful for everyone who chose to participate, and made the Tribute2Veterans a reality.

Next, we have an announcement about a new partnership with the Fisher House Foundation. Fisher House is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide, close to the medical center or hospital they serve. After I visited a Fisher House in Georgia, I decided that I wanted to help open one in Michigan. To that end, I’ve donated $150,000 to Fisher House to build a location in Ann Arbor.

Finally, I want to talk about my partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and the Pure Michigan Talent Connect job web site. As a Michigan native, I have a lot of pride in my home state, and the work MEDC and Pure Michigan are doing to help veterans is something I’m especially proud of.

Michigan’s already leading the way in terms of giving veterans a great place to live and raise their families. Grand Rapids was just ranked the second best place to raise a family in the entire country. The state’s got more freshwater coastline than any other state, 650 public golf courses, 1,300 designated mountain bike trails, 102 state parks, 600 campgrounds, four professional sports teams, the University of Michigan (Go Blue!)—you get the picture.

AT A FUNDRAISER FOR THE ANN ARBOR FISHER HOUSE BACK IN JUNE. PHOTO BY DANA JO PHOTOGRAPHY.

What makes Pure Michigan Talent Connect special is that it helps veterans and reserve members find a variety of programs, jobs and businesses designed to match their skills with employers’ needs. In addition, the employers on Pure Michigan Talent Connect not only respect our military, but understand the value of hiring from such an experienced, talented workforce to their shops, factories and offices. You can find the web site at the link below:

https://jobs.mitalent.org/job- seeker/jobsearch-results/245977

And right now, the career opportunities in Michigan are pretty incredible. Currently, Michigan is No. 1 in the U.S. for creating new manufacturing jobs, No. 1 in employment of industrial and mechanical engineers, and No. 3 in high-tech job growth. Not only that—the state has several programs which allow high school graduates in certain areas to pursue post-secondary degrees with up to 100 percent tuition reimbursement or scholarship.

To any veteran out there looking for a place that will look after him or her, that will provide a great place to live and some of the best employment opportunities in the nation, I urge you to consider Michigan.

Finally, to all the veterans we’re honoring this weekend: Thank you for everything you’ve sacrificed for the rest of us to be free. My family and I could not be more proud of all that you do.

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Brad Announces Style Partnership With Ike Behar

Brad Keselowski is the newest Ike Behar Gentleman.

Ike Behar has proudly announced Brad Keselowski as the newest spokesman and brand ambassador for the luxury clothier. Ike Behar will be styling the 33 year-old NASCAR champion in perfectly tailored items from both their custom program and upcoming collections. The brand has plans to feature Brad in their up-coming campaigns throughout the country.

“I think Brad is the quintessential Ike Behar man,” said Alan Behar, CEO of Ike Behar. “He’s a man who is one of the best in the world at his craft, with a tremendous sense of style, and an eye for quality.”

In his role as brand ambassador, BK will promote Ike Behar’s complete collection of high- quality fashion forward dress shirts, suits, ties, sport shirts, sport coats, slacks, formal wear, as well as Ike Behar’s exceptional custom suiting and shirting programs.

“The role of a modern day NASCAR driver is equally as busy outside the car as it is on the track,” said Keselowski. “In representing myself, our team, our partners, and becoming more involved in the business world, it is important to me and it feels good to have a stylish, tailored look. Ike Behar certainly offers that and the company’s American heritage and it being family-owned makes it an ideal partner.”

ABOUT IKE BEHAR

Ike Behar combines traditional craftsmanship with new age style to forge an ever changing collection that is as timeless as it is contemporary. Originally, known for high quality dress shirts, the Ike Behar product line has expanded – through a broad spectrum of licensees – into a complete lifestyle brand that now includes sport shirts, neck wear, outerwear, jewelry, accessories, and loungewear, in addition to exquisitely tailored suits, sport coats, and dress slacks. The brand has boutiques in Charlotte, D.C., Charleston and Chicago and is available at high-end department stores and specialty shops nationwide.

Still family owned and operated, Ike Behar continues to use only fine materials, while maintaining a strong focus on quality and craftsmanship. Ike Behar is based in Miami and in production in the United States and across the world.

To learn more visit IkeBehar.com.

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BK Looks to Continue Playoff Success in Texas

After an outstanding points day to open the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway, Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion team are in strong standing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.

However, given the speed of the Toyota stable on mile-and-a-half tracks like this weekend’s venue, Texas Motor Speedway, BK and Co. know they have work left to be done. With that in mind, Brad and his team are ready to do whatever is necessary to advance to the Championship Round.

“This No. 2 Wurth Ford team is focused on the task ahead of us, and we’re committed to doing the work,” Brad said. “We’re going tap into the Penske ethos of ‘Effort equals Results’ and see what happens.”

Brad has found postseason success at Texas Motor Speedway before. He boasts two second-place finishes at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth, Texas track. The first came in 2012 and played an enormous role in his 2012 Cup Championship run.

The second came in 2015 and as one of the most dominant performances of Brad’s career. His fast Wurth Ford landed on the pole, and he led 312 of 334 laps. He couldn’t finish the victory, as Jimmie Johnson had his No. 48 tuned perfectly for the final run, whereas the previously dominant No. 2 didn’t quite have it in the end.

“We just came up a bit short,” BK said two years ago. “We didn’t have any thing to shrug our shoulders about or feel bad about—the 48 was just a little bit better at the end. I held him off as long as I could, but there was no stopping that much speed. It’s unfortunate, but I’m not going to focus on not winning the race—I’m going to focus on the great things we did today and the knowledge that if we keep running like this, there’s a strong chance we can win the next two races and this championship.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t quite come to fruition for the 2 Crew, as they were left just outside of the title picture in 2015—an outcome BK hopes to change in 2017.

BK has finished in the Top 20 in his last 10 Texas starts, including a sixth-place run there earlier this season. NASCAR Playoff drama was at an all-time high last week, and that likely won’t change when the series heads to Texas for the third-to-last race of the year.

The No. 2 team will have one practice session Friday (1 p.m. ET) and two more Saturday (3 and 5 p.m. ET) to fine-tune the Wurth machine. Qualifying is set for 6:15 p.m. ET Friday, and the AAA Texas 500 will go green at 2:16 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBCSN.

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Brad Scores 53 Points in Round of 8 Opener

The playoff intensity was palpable at Martinsville Speedway, but amid all the drama and carnage, Brad Keselowski made it through with an outstanding start to the Round of 8.

The No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion driver won both stages of the First Data 500 and nearly won his second race at the 0.526-mile track this season, though a late bump delivered by Chase Elliott in a battle for the lead sent BK sliding out of line and settling for a fourth-place finish.

“We had a really great Alliance Truck Parts Ford,” Brad said. “We were able to lead laps, win two stages and bring home a solid finish—and that’s something to be proud of.”

Brad led 104 laps and earned 53 points, second only to race-winner Kyle Busch. He remains in third in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings, 29 points ahead of the Round of 4 cutline.

Brad started seventh and showed right from the start that the Black and Yellow Deuce was a force to be reckoned with. By the first caution of the day at lap 36, Kes had moved into third place. The 2 Crew continued its stellar postseason, sending BK off in second place for the lap 45 restart. Within four laps, he had taken the lead for the first time on the day.

It wouldn’t be a Team Penske race if it wasn’t for a unique strategy call by Paul Wolfe. The No. 2 Crew chief brought Brad down pit road while the majority of the field stayed out at lap 89. The decision dropped Kes in 11th, but he used his fresh tires to drive all the way to the front and win Stage 1.

During Stage 2, the No. 2’s long-run speed was on display. The entire 130-lap stage stayed green, and just two laps before the Stage 2 yellow, Brad out-dueled Busch for his eighth stage win of the season.

Brad waged an outstanding battle with fellow playoff driver Elliot late in Stage 3. Wolfe hooked Brad up with an air pressure adjustment for the 35-lap final run. BK held his position from the outside line before putting the pressure on Elliott. After a fantastic six-lap battle, Brad used a little push from his teammate Joey Logano to vault past the No. 24 Chevrolet and into the lead with 29 laps to go.

While Kes built a comfortable cushion and set sail for the lead, a battle behind him changed the scope of the race. Busch made hard contact with the left-rear tire of Logano, causing heavy smoke to pour out of his No. 22 Ford. With smoke billowing out of the Team Penske machine, he kept remained on the track for several laps before spinning out, bringing the field to a caution with just seven laps to go.

BK chose the outside line for a restart with four laps to go, and after a hard battle on the restart, he was bumped out of line by Elliott.

“I just knew I got in the corner and he was inside of me and we just made contact,” BK said. “The track’s really slick for everybody on the restarts. I think we saw that it takes about five laps or more for everyone to get going, especially the leader. There was a lot of hard fighting here. It’s a short track, that’s what they’re about—hard fighting. You try not to take anyone out. Who’s to say what’s too far and what’s not.”

Brad slid back to seventh place, but just moments later, Elliott was spun out by Denny Hamlin, sparking overtime at The Paperclip. Kes restarted seventh for the two-lap finale. Similar to Elliott’s move on Brad earlier, Busch bumped his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Hamlin, out of line on the final restart and held off Martin Truex Jr. to win. Meanwhile, Hamlin couldn’t recover from the bump by Busch, and he spun out collecting nearly the entire field. Brad was one of the lucky few to skirt by to grab fourth place.

Brad walked away proud of his team’s performance, grabbing two stage wins and a Top 5 finish to start the Round of 8, but he knows that after coming up just shy of the Martinsville win, he’ll have to be at his best at Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.

“Everyone’s just desperate,” BK said of the race. ” You’ve got two or three cars that are so much better than everybody else on the mile-and-a-halfs that this is our race to get it done, and I think we all know that.”

MENCS PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

1. Kyle Busch – 4100*
2. Martin Truex Jr. – 4117
3. Brad Keselowski – 4079
4. Kevin Harvick – 4053

–CHAMPIONSHIP CUTLINE–

5. Jimmie Johnson – 4050
6. Ryan Blaney – 4047
7. Denny Hamlin – 4045
8. Chase Elliott – 4027
* – Locked into Championship 4

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BK Enters Martinsville in Must-Win Mode

Brad Keselowski called this weekend’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway a must-win if he wants to advance past the Round of 8 to compete for his second Monster Energy Cup Series championship.

Of the three Round of 8 tracks, Brad sees The Paperclip as his best shot at victory. He’ll return to the Virginia short track as the defending winner, having captured his first Grandfather Clock at the Cup level this spring.

“Martinsville at this moment I would say is a must-win for us, and we know that going in,” Brad said after his Talladega win. “We tested there, and we feel like that’s the type of track that we have a lot of strength for.”

BK will ride a string of three straight Top 5 finishes at Martinsville into his 16th start at the 0.526-mile oval, and he knows that surface tips the odds in his favor. The Ford Performance stable simply hasn’t found the speed to contend with the Toyotas at 1.5-mile tracks, making Martinsville a crucial track on the road to a title.

“Well, the good thing about Martinsville is you spin the tires there, so the engine from a horsepower standpoint is not as critical when you can’t put the gas pedal down. I think that’s why we run so well there,” BK said. “If you look at the tracks where the Fords have won this year, it’s been the tracks where you have very little rear tire grip, a lot of wheel spin; Sonoma, Martinsville, and it’s been at the restrictor plate tracks, so I don’t think that’s a mistake by any means.”

Brad ran incredibly well at Martinsville earlier this season. The Rochester Hills, Michigan, native outdueled Kyle Busch late in the race to earn the coveted Martinsville win—one of the most special victories of his career.

“It felt like we were due with the Miller Lite Ford, and if you ever can be, this is probably one of those tracks, and today was one of those days where we persevered in a special way with the battle there with Kyle at the end I thought was a lot of fun to be a part of,” Brad said. “Hopefully it was a lot of fun to watch and kind of harkens back to the legacy of this sport on short tracks and why this track has been around for 70 some years because of battles like that.”

If Brad can replicate that performance, he’ll punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway where he’ll race for his second Cup title.

The No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford will roll out for two practice sessions Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Qualifying will take place on race Sunday at 12:05 p.m. ET. The First Data 500 will go green shortly after 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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