Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski knows that things could be worse. He really can’t complain about how his 2013 campaign has started: he’s been fast, consistent and has already been atop the point standings.
But, Keselowski hasn’t won. Yet, at least and it’s starting to nag at him. Speaking Friday at Martinsville Speedway, where he has yet to win, Keselowski revealed he’s anxious to win early in the season and that his team worked hard during the offseason to make it happen on the Virginia paperclip. The only thing left that would cap off the hot start Keselowski’s been on.
“Motivation for us, we certainly don’t want to be a one and done team. You look at the great teams and I’m reminded of this quote by Mark Martin when he talked about winning his first race, which was at Rockingham,” started Keselowski, when asked about that hot start.
“He talked about one [win] is great, but you haven’t really made it until you’ve won two. That was race wins, but I feel very similar about that as it pertains to championships, and I think a lot of people on my team feel that way and that’s our motivation.”
Winning the championship in only their third full season together, the Miller Lite team of Penske Racing are now among the elite. Keselowski’s more than just another driver in the sport and as such, his goals have changed. Winning a couple of titles isn’t good enough; Keselowski used the word dynasty at Martinsville.
“That’s not to take anything away from winning one because that’s a very special accomplishment, but it sure would feel irresponsible to give up on it and not have that drive,” he said. “If anything, winning a championship makes us more dangerous because it gives us that much more confidence and an ability to self-motivate.”
And so as the season moves forward and he has yet to find Victory Lane it adds to his fire and drive. Last season his first win of the season came at Bristol in March, becoming the earlier Keselowski had won in his young career. But Keselowski didn’t win again until the summer and fall months came. Those have always appeared to be the team’s stronger months as they make their charge toward the Chase.
Except, when a New Year was brought in a few months ago, Keselowski made it known that he wasn’t going to wait to make his charge. It was more important that he picked up right where he left off during his championship season. And even with an offseason switch from Dodge to Ford the team hasn’t missed a beat, in fact finding more speed, says Keselowski.
“I think our team is one of the best in the garage at executing a race, whether it be strategy – or knock on wood – equipment failures and so forth,” Keselowski continued. “My guys do a great job with that and then from there it’s just a matter of having speed and me not screwing it up. We’ve had a little bit more speed at this time than we’ve ever had and that’s very encouraging and I think if we can find a little bit more, we could go on a tear and win a bunch of races.”
Hopefully for Keselowski, that starts Sunday in Martinsville. He qualified seventh for the STP Gas Booster 500, markedly better than where he started last fall when he was 32nd and expected to be lapped before the field was even up to speed. Instead, Keselowski finished in the top 10, a feat that went a long way towards wining the championship.
Perhaps that performance, along with the top 10 he earned in this race a year ago, is why Keselowski’s a lot more confident than before. Because he knows, while his stats might be deceiving, his team’s ability and speed, aren’t.
“Everything in this sport is based around speed. That’s your basic building block and from there you have to execute and do all those other things right,” he said. “We’ve had great execution as a team for the last 16-18 months. Give us some speed and look out.”