Brad Keselowski’s hot streak continues
By Rick Minter/ Andrews McMeel Syndication
For most of the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series season, the weekly storylines were about the Big Three of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who combined to win 17 of the first 23 races.
But in the past three weeks, Brad Keselowski has emerged as the driver to beat in the 10-race playoffs, as his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday was his third in a row, following wins at Darlington and Indianapolis in the final two races of the regular season.
Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford hasn’t appeared to be the fastest car in any of his three wins, but between quick work by his crew, good race tactics from crew chief Paul Wolfe and determined effort from the driver, he’s been able to beat the Big Three as well as the rest of the field.
Truex, who finished third in spite of his No. 78 Toyota being the fastest car for much of the South Point 400, said Keselowski has found a lucky horseshoe.
“Obviously, he hasn’t led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short-run speed,” Truex said. “He’s hot right now. He’s on a streak.”
At Las Vegas, Keselowski led 75 laps to Truex’s race-high 96 and took the lead for good with 22 laps remaining. He was the dominant driver from that point forward, as six caution periods in the final 50 laps turned the end of the race into a series of short sprints.
Keselowski excelled on restarts to take the victory, the 500th in major-league motorsports for team owner Roger Penske. Kyle Larson finished second ahead of Truex, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch, as playoff drivers swept the top seven finishing positions.
Harvick, who entered the race as the points leader, was one of eight playoff drivers who finished 19th or worse.
Still, Keselowski said he’s not ready for the conversation to shift to a “Big Four” that includes him.
“I feel like we’re proud of this win, but it’s one win in a long grind, and there are nine weeks of long grinding left,” he said. “In 2014 we won the first race, I think, in Chicago, and that was terrific. … But we were eliminated out of the playoffs four or five weeks later. … You look too far ahead, you get in trouble.”
Keselowski also said he agrees with Truex’s comments that he’s been extremely fortunate the past three weeks.
“I feel like we stole the last three races,” he said. Keselowski and other drivers said the heat on Sunday at Las Vegas, measured at more than 100 degrees, was hard on drivers, crews and fans.
“I’ve heard stories about living in an oven before, and I think I’ve lived it now,” he said. “This was a mentally grueling race because when you get hot, when you’re stuck in those situations and then you add the chaos of the restarts and all those things come together, it really tests you and challenges you mentally, and our team was able to make the most of that.”
Photo Caption: Team Penske drivers Joey Logano, left, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski celebrate the team’s 500th victory in motorsports following Keselowski’s win at Las Vegas.
By Matt Sullivan/Getty Images for NASCAR