The playoff format has not been kind to Brad Keselowski in the past.
Whether it’s been engine failures or being in accidents, something has always got in the way of him make the championship round every year since its inception. It seemed as if once he and the No. 2 team ran into trouble during the playoffs, they’d have issues finding any solutions for their problems.
That has not been the case this year.
In fact, it’s fair to say that the team has finally found the answer to this obstacle, which isn’t good news for those still racing for a chance to run for the title next weekend at Homestead.
Just look at the last two weeks.
At Martinsville, after a dominant day, Keselowski looked to be in trouble following contact with Chase Elliott that sent him from the lead to an unfavorable position with just a handful of laps remaining. He still managed to come out of the race with a fourth-place finish and a big points day.
Last weekend, the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion worked his way back after a flat tire and nearly going two laps down early, to end the day with a fifth-place finish.
Two significant obstacles that may have defeated them in past have not stopped this team from finding success this year.
There has been a lot of talk about who will join Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr after Phoenix and the favorite should be Keselowski, with the Round Of 8 serving as evidence to back up that claim.
Out of the remaining five drivers in the playoffs, there isn’t one competitor that has done more in their attempt to make the final four than the Michigan-native.
Jimmie Johnson has continued to struggle, failing to finish in the top-25 at Texas, a track he has dominated in the past. Chase Elliott finds himself in a hole after a late-race spin at Martinsville, with a ninth-place finish last weekend that didn’t do anything to help his cause. Despite being consistent, Ryan Blaney has been outperformed by his former boss and future teammate. Lastly, Denny Hamlin, like Elliott failed to capitalize in Martinsville and has since left him in a hole that he is still recovering from.
Simply put, Keselowski is the driver with the momentum.
Virtually all that needs to happen Sunday for him to secure a spot is two things:
His fellow four competitors cannot win Sunday, which is far from a guarantee as Elliott did lead laps at Phoenix in the spring; however, the last time one of the four won at Phoenix was Hamlin in 2012.
And, he needs to continue to run up front, which is realistic for him has only finished outside the top-10 three times at the track since 2012.
This weekend is a defining race for Keselowski. With momentum on his side can he overcame his struggles of the past, or will he fall victim yet again?
Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist
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