While the remainder of his fellow Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders were spread out across the country, Brad Keselowski on Wednesday laid claim to home-field advantage.
Keselowski, who will enter Sunday’s start to the 10-race Chase as the No. 1 seed, took part in NASCAR’s “Chase Across North America” tour with a rally at City Plaza promoting the Oct. 11 Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.
The Raleigh market is among the top three from which the speedway draws ticket buyers.
“I feel very privileged to be the first seed going for the Sprint Cup championship,” said Keselowski, who dominated Saturday night’s race in Richmond, Va., to earn his fourth win of the season.
“We’ve got 16 drivers going across the nation promoting the races and I got Charlotte. Someone wrote me on Twitter and said I had home-field advantage. I think they’re right.”
In fact, Keselowski is adamant the Charlotte race will play a critical role in determining the champion.
The race is one of three during the Chase’s second round and will be sandwiched between events at Kansas and Talladega, Ala. A win in one of those races by a Chase driver still in contention automatically will send that driver into the next round.
Keselowski considers the races at Kansas and Talladega as “wild cards,” with a strong performance at the fall race at Charlotte – which he won last year – much more in a driver and team’s control.
“You see a lot of wrecks at Kansas and Talladega, that makes it really tough to control the outcome,” he said. “You go to Charlotte and win in that bracket and get to the next round, that will be a huge momentum swing for a team.”
A couple hundred fans showed up for the rally, which included a pace car from CMS, the speedway’s “Fan Van,” a pit crew competition and a show car sharing a downtown street with a farmer’s market.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, who along with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest welcomed Keselowski to North Carolina’s capital city, chided Keselowski for “stinking up the show” last weekend at Richmond, a race in which Keselowski led all but 17 of the 400 laps.
Keselowski, never known to shy away from expressing his opinion, had a response ready at hand:
“Telling a driver he stunk up the show would be like telling the governor he is running too much of a surplus. I’m just doing my job.”
While there is only one race on a true short track (like Richmond) during the Chase, Keselowski believes the performance by his Team Penske No. 2 outfit sent a loud message.
“I thought it was an incredible weekend. While Loudon (N.H.), Phoenix and Martinsville (Va.) aren’t very similar to Richmond, they are still shorter tracks. We feel like we can keep that same momentum through all of those tracks,” he said.
“As the Chase bracket shakes out, that gives us the opportunity to advance in places we are strong. At Richmond, we proved that we have that strength.”
Keselowski was asked who he thought his top competition would be as he looks to earn his second series championship.
“I think my teammate Joey (Logano) and Jeff Gordon will be the toughest,” he said. “I really think Joey and Jeff are the two biggest threats at Homestead (Fla.).
“Those two have the versatility to run both the top and the bottom lanes (on the track). That is what winning at Homestead – and therefore winning the championship – is going to require.”