The Inside Line: Keselowski has another title in mind

 

The Sports Network

(SportsNetwork.com) - After winning last Saturday's race in dominating fashion at Kentucky Speedway, Brad Keselowski feels like he and his No. 2 Team Penske team are in championship form again.

Keselowski put on a clinic in the 400-mile Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky, starting on the pole after setting a new track qualifying record and then leading 199 of 267 laps.

In 2012, his win at Kentucky served as a springboard for his first championship in NASCAR's premier series. He went on to score 16 top-10 finishes, including two victories, in the last 19 races of the season.

The 2013 season was a letdown for Keselowski as he failed to qualify for the Chase and did not pick up his first win of the year until the fall race at Charlotte.

With two victories to his credit this season, Keselowski is now assured of making the playoffs, which begin on Sept. 14 at Chicagoland.

For Keselowski, winning another Sprint Cup championship is not only a goal but a necessity as well.

"I want to win another championship," Keselowski said. "I don't want to just win one. I think I have the team to do it, with (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) and the guys. I have the owner to do it, with Roger Penske, and the urgency is now."

Keselowski is in his fifth full season of Sprint Cup competition.

"I don't want to win one championship, and that be it for my career," he added. "I'm not going to be happy with that. I want to win another championship, but I don't want it to be five or 10 years from now. I don't want to be a guy who contends for a championship every three or four years. I want to do it each and every year, and I know that opportunity is here."

Keselowski began this season with third-place finishes at Daytona and Phoenix and then won at Las Vegas, a 1.5-mile racetrack similar to Kentucky. He struggled somewhat after Las Vegas but recently put his season back on track, as he has finished in the top 10 in five of last six races.

His win at Kentucky moved him up to fourth in the point standings (58 points behind leader Jeff Gordon).

"It feels really good to get that second win," Keselowski said. "I think we've been so close and kind of haven't put it together there at the end. Richmond comes to mind. Texas comes to mind, and then Pocono. Kind of had some heartbreakers there. It starts to wonder in your head, is this ever going to work out, but it did, and I think it showcased the strength of our team.

"We've got a really good stretch run going here over the summer, so it's very exciting for me personally, very rewarding, and I feel like we're in such a strong spot, a lot of momentum."

The next 1.5-mile racetrack on the schedule is Labor Day weekend at Atlanta. But five of the 10 races during the Chase are contested on intermediate tracks -- Chicagoland, Kansas, Charlotte, Texas and the season finale at Homestead.

Five of Keselowski's 12 career wins in Sprint Cup have occurred on the mile- and-a-half tracks.

Keselowski's teammate, Joey Logano, also is expected to make the Chase after winning two races this season as well. Team Penske will be a strong contender in the playoffs, but standing in their way is Hendrick Motorsports, which is arguably the best team in the series right now.

HMS had recently won five races in a row. Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion, went to victory lane at Charlotte, Dover and Michigan. Gordon started Hendrick's winning streak at Kansas, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag at Pocono after passing Keselowski for the lead in the closing laps.

Keselowski's team knows they have their work cut out for them.

"I think we look at our program as a whole and look at areas where we can be stronger and where we need to improve," Wolfe said. "Whether it's with our aero department or our chassis or the guys working on the cars, the pit crews, we look at it all.

"To be able to win another championship, we'll have to be very good in all those areas, and we'll continue to evaluate and do what we need to do to be able to be good in all those areas."

Based on their performance at Kentucky, it appears Keselowski and the No. 2 team are gearing up for another championship run.

Read more Sprint Cup stories from the Miami Herald

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