No pressure for Chase leader Keselowski
Auto Racing Videos
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Brad Keselowski talks as though racing is simply business as usual.
The 28-year-old leads NASCAR'S Chase for the Sprint Cup. While his margin on five-time champion Jimmie Johnson is just seven points and perennial contender Denny Hamlin is only 20 points back, Keselowski dismisses talk that being chased means pressure.
“I feel good about our situation,” he said. “I love the way we performed over the last few weekends — really over the Chase. You want to win every race and obviously that hasn't happened, but that's not realistic, either. But we've been fortunate to win two races and be in contention for others. Even when we don't win, we seem to be able to find a way to not have a disaster out of it.”
That might be harder Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where Johnson is on the pole, Hamlin will start fifth and the two have combined to win 10 times. Keselowski has never finished better than ninth; he'll roll off 32nd, back where mayhem can ruin a driver's day quickly.
Johnson and Hamlin have started back in the field and rallied to good finishes. Johnson started 22nd here in the spring and contended for the victory before fading to 12th.
This time around, he'd love to see Keselowski struggle early because the leader typically reaches the tail end of the field and starts lapping cars before 20 laps have been completed. That makes it critical for a contender starting near the back to drive his way out of trouble quickly.
“You have got to go,” Johnson said. “Everybody around you has that same mentality, too, so it can be pretty cut- throat back there.”
Even if Keselowski rallies into contention, Hamlin figures the air of calm surrounding the season's final three races will be harder to maintain the longer it lasts.
“You can put that iron-clad armor around you and think that it's not going to affect you, but it will eventually,” Hamlin said. “It doesn't matter whether you are going from the divisional game to the championship series; it just continues to build and get harder to block out everything that you hear.”
Hamlin finished third in the Chase in 2006 and was second in 2010. He and Keselowski share the series lead with five victories, and Hamlin thinks No. 6 would put him right in the thick of things.
“If we win, then it is going to be huge momentum,” he said. “If for some reason we can lead the most laps and win the race, that's half of our deficit that we've got that we can knock out in one week. This place will build momentum, or it will take it. You just hope you are on the first side of that.”
Thanks to his history of closing the deal, Johnson would seem to be the favorite.
“When it gets playoff time, things happen,” he said. “I don't want to put my guard down.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
- 5 face trial in beating of black man in Pittsburgh
- Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell gets suspension, fine reduced
- Woman charged with assulting cops in wild Strip District dispute
- Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 29, 2015
- Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
- Videos spur dozens to protest outside Pittsburgh Planned Parenthood
- Latrobe police to host National Night Out
- Inside the Steelers: Ventrone suffers right ankle injury
- Pittsburgh man jailed on theft, assault and drug charges
- Brady’s suspension upheld by Goodell