Brad Keselowski: Threat to Win Title?

By: Jeff Woods
By: Jeff Woods

Jeff Woods discusses Brad Keselowski's recent success and his chances of winning the Sprint Cup title.

Maybe Brad Keselowski should've broken his ankle in February.

Since injuring his ankle at a practice session at Road Atlanta, Brad Keselowski has been the hottest driver in NASCAR. In the month of August, Keselowski has two wins, a second and a third. It wasn't that long ago when Brad was outside the top 20 in the point standings. Now just two races before the Chase, he sits eleventh, just 21 points behind tenth. Keselowski can relax, though. He's a virtual lock to win one of the two wild cards by virtue of his three wins, two more than anybody else needing a wild card spot to make the playoffs.

It will be interesting to see if Brad K. cracks the top ten. If he does, things get even more interesting. Number one, he will likely bump Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart from the top ten, neither of whom have a win this season. If that happens, Junior or Stewart would be in a heap of trouble. The wild card spots would then go to Denny Hamlin (13th in points) and Paul Menard (20th in points). Case in point, Junior and Stewart desperately need a win to solidify their chase position. I wouldn't hold my breath. Stewart looked like an also-ran at Bristol and Junior hasn't sniffed a win since he ran out of gas leading on the final lap at Charlotte. Denny Hamlin would love to see Keselowski crack the top ten. Right now, Hamlin is one Clint Bowyer victory away from missing the Chase, just one year after falling just short of knocking Jimmie Johnson off of his perch. Hamlin missing the Chase would easily be in the running for shock of the year.

Now here's the question. Is Keselowski a contender for the Sprint Cup title? On the surface, the obvious answer is yes. But let's dig a little deeper. Keselowski simply cannot keep this up. This four-week stretch has been one of the most impressive runs I have seen in the Sprint Cup Series. That said, he's still not even in the top ten. He was barely in the top 20 five races ago. All it takes is one poor finish to bring Keselowski back to Earth.

Maybe the biggest strike against Keselowski is his youth and the youth of his team. This is only Brad's second full season at the Sprint Cup level. Neither he nor his team has been in this position before, at least not in the Cup series. Keep in mind, this is not the group that led Kurt Busch to a Chase spot last season. The Penske teams stayed the same, only the sponsors changed. When Kyle Busch first joined Joe Gibbs Racing, he entered the Chase as the favorite after dominating the first 26 races. He then floundered in the final ten races and Jimmie Johnson won another title.

The point is, Keselowski is not ready for this type of stage. He may win a race in the Chase and even finish in the top five in points. He may also be peaking about two races too soon. I say he is at least a year away from becoming a viable contender for the title. If anybody is going to take down Johnson, it is Kyle Busch. But that's another discussion for another time.

Talk to you soon!

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