Kyle Busch: More Than Mature Enough to be Champion

With five races to go, Busch will crack the top 30 and then some.

With five races to go, Busch will crack the top 30 and then some.

It never ceases to amaze me that NASCAR racing fans want more action, more risk takers and more competition but scream to high heaven when someone like Kyle Busch actually lives by those tenets.

The Pocono race was, at it’s finish, dramatic to be sure. Crew chiefs were tapping wildly on their computers to measure just how much room they had in fuel mileage to make the end of the race, everyone was on the edge of their seats as Logano ran out of fuel. Busch swung for the fences and came up short of a win, but not without gaining points.

Kyle Busch fans watched in horror as one half a lap before the checkered flag, while leading, he ran out of gas. Why? I say why not?

Busch might have backed down and finished 13th or above and locked into the Chase, but he didn’t. Were his crew chief and spotters not hard enough on him to save fuel? Perhaps not, but the sky is not falling for Kyle Busch to grab a berth in the playoffs.

Some writers believe he’s not mature enough to take a Championship. That’s nonsense. He’s 13 points from the Chase berth with five races to go and the only driver ahead of him for that coveted 30th place are Cole Whitt, David Gilliland and Justin Allgaier.

New wife, new baby, new attitude. Kyle Busch will be a contender for the title.

New wife, new baby, new attitude. Kyle Busch will be a contender for the title.

The 18 team wont repeat that mistake and that’s bad news for everyone else in the field.

Is their anyone out there that thinks Kyle Busch can’t overcome these drivers in points, a miniscule 13 points, before Richmond? If so, you need to put the crack pipe down and slowly step away.

When asked if he was disappointed, he calmly stated: : “Yeah, that was it. I didn’t know we were that close. Normally when we’re close or that close I get harped on pretty hard to save fuel. They were just telling me to save just to not put too much pressure on the car and everything else. Man, that’s a bummer. I wish I would’ve saved a little more there that last run. I wish I would’ve known that the 22 (Joey Logano) was that far away from making it. He was way far away from making it. Man, that was just a shame that we weren’t able to get it done there.”

Doesn’t sound like a rookie or desperate man to me, he sounds like a confident driver who takes chances. Isn’t that what all of you have been screaming to see? Imagine that, a professional racing driver taking chances.

He added: “We got greedy, I don’t know how greedy but that’s the position we’re in. If it came down to other things that we haven’t had the success that we’ve had here lately we would’ve had to have pitted and just made the opportunity of it and made the best finish that we could. But, we went for broke today and come up a little bit short so can’t fault the team.”

Is Kyle Busch worried? Hell no. He knows what he’s capable of achieving. A close friend, Bill Marlowe, NASCAR expert and former engineer for some of NASCAR’s greats put it bluntly: “ There are only a few “A” rated drivers out there, but to me, only three real wheelman. They’re Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.”

You fans ask for excitement, tough drivers and hard racing.

You have it in Kyle Busch, who may very well be the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

 

 

 

 

Stewart Has Momentum But Will It Do The Job At Pocono?

When Tony Stewart won at Dover to earn his first victory of the year, it created momentum for him and his Stewart Haas team. Stewart admits momentum should help him at Pocono.

Among other things, conventional wisdom in NASCAR declares that once a driver and his team win a race, they gain competitive momentum.

With confidence that they can indeed get the job done, a driver and team are filled with optimism – and are pleased that they have escaped the doldrums of mediocre performances.

Well, to be honest, momentum is a tonic. But it’s not a cure-all. Indeed some drivers and teams have gone on to a series of good performances.

Then again, some have fallen flat on their faces at the very next race.

So which is it going to be for Tony Stewart?

The driver/owner at Stewart Haas Racing won at Dover last weekend to end a string of uncharacteristic so-so performances.

Going into Dover, Stewart was 20th in points with only two finishes among the top 10.

His Dover victory was achieved when he passed Juan Pablo Montoya with three laps to go. His first win of 2013 was the 48th of his career.

It also put him in a much better position to make the Chase. He’s now 16th in points but more important, he is the only driver outside the top 10 with a victory – which means he’s on track for a “wildcard” entry.

So it can be said Stewart has momentum going into this weekend’s race at Pocono.

He’ll agree with that.

“The win at Dover was big and it gave us some momentum,” Stewart said. “Momentum is huge in this sport and after Charlotte (where he finished seventh) and Dover, we’ve got two weeks of it.”

Stewart’s timing should have been predictable. It seems that when the weather gets hot, so does he. It was 90 degrees in Dover, so in 2013 he’s holding form – at the moment.

It should be noted that of Stewart’s 48 career victories, only six have come before June, which indicates that he might well ride his newly found momentum to bigger and better things.

It’s happened before. Stewart won the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship when he won five of 10 events in the Chase. Talk about momentum.

While Stewart admits the Dover victory was a reward for his hard-working team, more work needs to be done. He feels the team still isn’t where it needs to be.

If momentum is to bring good things to Stewart and his team, it all begins at this weekend’s Sprint Cup Race at Pocono Raceway, NASCAR’s only 2.5-mile, triangular track.

Stewart has two victories at Pocono, in 2003 and 2009, both in the June race.

He also has two poles, 11 top-fives, and 20 top-10s. His average finish is 11.3, but in the last 16 Pocono races he shares the best average finishing position, 9.4, with Jimmie Johnson.

So, Stewart’s Pocono statistics are favorable and make him a likely pre-race favorite. That he has momentum on his side helps.

But things have changed – slightly.

Pocono has been repaved and after testing at the track last week, Stewart is keenly aware of the differences he, and all other drivers, will face.

“The thing about Pocono – it’s definitely unique,” Stewart said. “It’s got its own personality, but now that it’s been repaved and all the little nuances and tricks you learned when it was rougher and the tunnel turn was more aggressive – a lot of those things are gone. For us, we’re still learning it, or relearning it.”

“With the repaving, the track has probably lost some grip, but that will make for some better racing.”

“You can see rubber getting into the race track and that was with just a few laps around the track. To me, that’s very positive.”

“The pace slowing down will make for better racing, for sure. The track surface really held up well over the winter. It didn’t shift a lot. It’s still smooth as glass.”

Races at Pocono can turn into fuel mileage affairs and while they aren’t so popular with the fans drivers have no choice but to be ready.

Stewart certainly was in 2009, when his fuel outlasted that of competitors.

“I’ve lost a lot more races like that than I’ve won,” Stewart said. “It was between Carl (Edwards) and me. We were the strongest two cars at the end of the race and we were able to get the track position we needed.”

“Our guys did a great job of getting us out of the pits in the lead and that gave us the opportunity to make Carl push harder in the beginning to get the lead. Once he went into that fuel conservation mode, we had to follow suit.”

“To be in a situation where your speed is dictated off the guy behind you and not off of what you can do, it’s a different style of racing. It’s hard.”

“It’s just as hard, if not tougher, than trying to run 100 percent.”

Despite the victory and the momentum, Stewart will tell you his team isn’t what he wants it to be. There’s work to be done. Confidence is high but …

“We aren’t where we should be,” Stewart said. “We need to make our program better.”

“The Dover victory was a reward for how hard my guys have worked this year. They have never quit or given up.”

And now, for Stewart and his guys, they have momentum.

Question is, starting with Pocono, how far will it carry them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pocono: Who’s Your Pick To Do The Trick At ‘Tricky Triangle?’

Fans at Pocono will pay close attention to Jeff Gordon in this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Ten fans will receive $10,000 each if Gordon emerges as the winner.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers left the Monster Mile of Dover International Speedway for the Tricky Triangle of Pocono International Raceway this weekend.

President and CEO, Brandon Igdalsky, of Pocono Raceway orchestrated a great fan incentive by offering $10,000 to 10 fans if Jeff Gordon wins the Party in the Poconos 400 presented by Walmart on Sunday.

Gordon, of course, has been a fan favorite for over two decades and won at the track in August of last year in a rain-shortened event. In fact, Gordon holds the track record for most wins in NASCAR Sprint Cup with six.

For the sake of the fans that could potentially reap the rewards of this windfall, and that Gordon’s career that needs some resuscitation at this point in the season, I hope he wins. But logic dictates we look at other competitors in the race as well.

After all, last August Igdalsky offered a similar contest stating if Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Pennsylvania 400 a lucky fan would walk away with a cool $100,000. Earnhardt Jr. placed 8th.

But the fans love the opportunity to play this game with Igdalsky knowing a chance exists to not only enjoy their sport and but also possibly earn some cash.

Tony Stewart was the winner at Dover last weekend and the question is, did he pick up enough momentum to carry him to a victory at Pocono?

Gordon is a strong pick at Pocono as Earnhardt Jr. was last season.  But with Gordon’s record to date – he is currently 11th in the points with third place the highest finish he’s seen all season – he may not be a top contender. Still, Gordon won this event in 2011.

Joey Logano is a driver who could very well swoop in for a win at Pocono this weekend. Although 18th in points does not indicate a successful season at present, Logano has secured four top-fives and five runs in the top 10. He is also the defending champion of the race.

If his equipment holds and he avoids scuffles with other drivers, Logano could very well find himself in Victory Lane on Sunday.

With back pain ever-present and acute at times, Denny Hamlin may seem like a tricky pick at the Tricky Triangle, but there was a time that Hamlin ruled at Pocono.

As a rookie in 2006 he swept both races of the season.  In August of 2009 he picked up another win and followed that with a victory in June of 2010.

Hamlin knows his way comfortably around Pocono’s tri-oval and seems to run even better in pain so look for him to be a strong contender come race day.

Tony Stewart is fresh from a win at Dover, a place he’d already had a couple of victories. The weather cooperated with Stewart – who always seems to come alive when the weather turns hot – Dover was in the 90s last weekend.

Momentum is a huge thing in NASCAR. If you have it, it can take you through a successful season. The only problem is, the forecast for Pocono is a spring-like day in the upper 70s, not hot.

Will “Smoke” be? He was the 2009 winner of this race and has two victories at Pocono to date.

Five years ago Kasey Kahne celebrated in Victory Lane as the winner of this event. Now he sits in the Hendrick Motorsports stable with arguably the strongest teammates on the circuit – Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, and Earnhardt Jr.

This season Kahne boasts a win, five top-fives and six top 10s. He has been at the front of several races and seems poised to win again. He could very well do that at Pocono on Sunday.

Look for points’ leader Johnson to be a force to be reckoned with as he is each weekend. He only has a couple of wins here but they were consecutive as he swept in 2004.

Second in points, Carl Edwards, could be a threat here as well. He claims a win at the August 2008 event and a 2005 victory at this race.

My dark horse pick? Kurt Busch. He’s running incredibly well this season and is so close to a win he can taste it. I was in the stands and watched Busch win in the August 2007 event and know he has the chops to claim victory again.

Who do you think will get to victory lane in the Party in the Poconos 400 presented by Walmart? Let me know!

Please take a moment to check out this Emerson Knife auction for Chris Kyle, “American Sniper”,  at: 

 

After Wild Pocono, Brad Keselowski Still Gets Championship Nod

With his fourth place finish in the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono, Brad Keselowski advanced from ninth to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings and tightened his grip on a place in the Chase.

LONG POND, Pa. – The rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 was, obviously, a most unusual race.

NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered transmission failure and his incredible streak of consistency – he completed every lap in 20 straight races this year – comes to an end.

Race-dominant Jimmie Johnson, who rarely makes mistakes, gets loose on the last restart and the ensuing wreck, among other things, takes out Matt Kenseth, the driver who only a week ago lost the points lead.

As a result, a crippled Earnhardt somehow remains the points leader. Go figure.

While you’re at it, figure this: Jeff Gordon, so desperately in need of a victory to have any chance at making the Chase, is the leader when storms rake Pocono yet again.

The bad weather forces an end to the race after 98 of scheduled 160 laps. Improbably, Gordon is the winner.

And just like that … he’s launched from oblivion to No. 2 in the “wildcard” standings, which means that if the Chase started this weekend, Gordon would be in it.

But there are now five races before the Chase begins. To assure his participation, Gordon has work to do.

Jeff Gordon was the winner of the rain-shortened Pocono race and as such, he won for the first time this year and vastly improved his chances for making the Chase and a chance at a fifth career title.

On the other hand, it would appear Brad Keselowski doesn’t have much to worry about.

The driver of the Penske Racing Dodge finished fourth in the Pennsylvania 400, which moved him from ninth to seventh in points. He’s just one point behind Tony Stewart.

But, like Stewart, Keselowski has three victories this season and therefore is all but assured a place in the Chase.

But let’s go a step further.

I am on record as saying that Keselowski will win the 2012 championship.

That may seem like I’m going out on a limb with defending champion Stewart and five-time titlist Johnson currently tied with Keselowski with three wins this season to date, but I can’t shake the feeling.

Keselowski, of course, tested my fortitude by qualifying 31st for the Pennsylvania 400. This has been an all-too-often scenario for the Penske No. 2 team.

As Keselowski noted, “I didn’t get a very strong qualifying run but that’s kind of been the story of our season.”

But what Keselowski and team lack in qualifying they seem to make up for in competition – as was the case at Pocono.

“The most important thing is race trim and the speed you have there,” he said. “Also it’s the execution that you have out of your team and, certainly, the driver and I’m proud of where we’re at in those categories.”

Pocono is one track on which Keselowski has always felt comfortable. He won there a year ago despite a broken ankle but finished 18th in June.

“For obvious reasons so it’s nice to return to a track where you’ve had success,” he said. “It just makes you feel even that much better about the outlook for the weekend.”

Keselowski explained that returning to a track for the second time means his team “always gets better.”

“I don’t think this weekend will be any exception,” he added prior to the Pennsylvania 400. And he was right.

“You know, we had a decent run coming together the last time we were here with the new pavement,” Keselowski said. “We had some electronics issues that caught us and we just never got a shot to fully recover from that.

“I think you know all things being even and not having those issues we could have had a top-five, top-10 day and I think we’re even more competitive this time around.

“So you know for those reasons I always look forward to coming back to tracks in the summer stretch.”

What impresses me about Keselowski is the depth of talent in the driver and the momentum he’s carried over from last year. He is a force with which to be reckoned this season.

As for his successes this season, Keselowski said, “I’m part of a competitive team. I enjoy going to the race track. It’s a good time in my life.”

With what looks to be a guaranteed spot in the Chase, and a strong position once there, Keselowski’s future continues to look bright.

But he adds, “The only thing I really am concerned about now is winning a race and winning another race and then another race. That’s what drives me before the Chase starts.”

With the 31st qualifying position it might have appeared a good finish would be difficult today, but Keselowski has proven throughout the season that a tough starting position will not keep him down.

He proved it again in the Pennsylvania 400.

His resiliency and his season record make him my favorite for this year’s title.

 

 

 

 

Now Tops In Points, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Still Looking For More

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will compete at Pocono today as the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader, a position he hasn't held in eight years. The Hendrick Motorsports driver starts from the eighth position.

LONG POND, Pa. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. is atop the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings as the Pennsylvania 400 is scheduled to get underway under cloud-covered skies. The Hendrick Motorsports driver comes to the “Tricky Triangle” with a growing confidence and a positive attitude.

“I’m just ready to go try it out and see what we’ve got. It should be a good weekend.” Earnhardt Jr. said.

Another win by Earnhardt Jr. would be crucial to his season once the Chase begins, a fact that does not go unnoticed.

In response to whether he feels vindicated by his win at Michigan earlier in the summer Earnhardt Jr. said, “Aside from winning a few more races I don’t know how much more of a statement I could have made than what we made this year.

“That’s not quite as important to me as just trying to make the best of this year with the final result being more wins and a championship.

“The closer we get to the Chase, the more real the opportunity seems. So all that stuff comes to the forefront. I know what I need to be focusing on and it’s not whether I got back at somebody or vindicate myself as much as just focusing on what we are trying to do today, this weekend, next weekend, and so forth.”

Earnhardt Jr. is not only trying to win the race today for his team but also for a lucky member of the racing audience who will be $100,000 wealthier if he makes it to victory lane. Pocono Raceway president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky offered the bounty to a lucky fan if Igdalsky’s pick – Earnhardt Jr. – wins.

“Yeah, I really don’t know much about it other than I guess the guy at the race track is going to pay someone some money if we win,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “That would be good for whoever gets the money and we’ll be enjoying the trophy in victory lane. Everybody wins, I suppose.”

What Earnhardt Jr. does know and embraces is he is the current points leader. He’s thrilled about it.

Earnhardt Jr. broke a long losing streak with his victory at Michigan this year. While he knows that win did much for him and his career, he's looking for more as the season moves toward the Chase.

“It’s been a long time since I was in the points lead,” he said. “It’s been forever. I can’t even recall when the last time we were in the conversation about the championship.

“So, these things are really validating the effort and the work we’ve done. We’ve worked really hard.”

And now that the hard work is paying off for Earnhardt Jr. he admits his attitude has changed.

“It’s 180 degrees really the way I feel and approach the sport and my job now,” he said. “When I wasn’t competitive that’s all you wanted to be, to run up front and run in the top five. Just have good runs.”

“It didn’t make a difference to be in the Chase if you weren’t going to win the thing and didn’t feel like you could win the championship, you were just taking up a spot – just like Tony (Stewart) felt last year when the Chase started.”

Earnhardt Jr. critiques his current season by saying, “We’ve been quick, but in my opinion we’ve only been the fastest guy probably once or twice this year and I don’t know if that is good enough.

“I’m gonna say it’s not good enough. I know our team would like to win more races. To be able to contend for the championship our team needs another 10 to 15 percent.”

With Earnhardt Jr. starting eighth in today’s running of the Pennsylvania 400, which starts at noon, he should have a good opportunity to find that next win.

 

 

President Brandon Igdalsky Plans Expansion, Change For Pocono Raceway

Brandon Igdalsky, president and CEO of Pocono Raceway, is the grandson of the speedway's founder, the late Dr. Joe Mattioli. Many improvements have been made at the track under Igdalsky's supervision.

LONG POND, Pa. – Brandon Igdalsky walks around Pocono Raceway in an unassuming manner with a huge smile on his face and a friendly demeanor.

He is visible, present, and clearly pleased to have throngs of people milling about his track days before the Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race occurs.

Igdalsky is, of course, president and CEO of Pocono Raceway. He is also grandson of well-loved founder and patriarch of the track, the late Dr. Joe Mattioli.

Mattioli created Pocono Raceway with a dream and a ton of gumption when he was tired of the rat race and just wanted to have fun. Now, in the wake of Mattioli’s passing, his grandson seems to be living in a similar manner.

Interested in staying true to his grandfather’s vision while taking Pocono Raceway to the next level, Igdalsky is implementing a ton of changes to the track.

The recent repave was a fabulous upgrade resulting in faster speeds. A plan to resurface and reconfigure the infield will be implemented this fall.

Social media is another tool that Igdalsky utilizes to stay attuned to the race fans.

From gleaning information, tackling criticisms, and staying in touch with people – Igdalsky recently had a Q&A on Twitter for an hour – he recognizes the importance of social media.

He credits NASCAR journalists who first used social media to bring fan and action on the track together and says that the people who did that will be seen as revolutionary in much the way Chris Economaki was with motorsports reporting.

While Pocono is recognized as a fan-friendly track, which offers attendees opportunity to see their favorite drivers, Igdalsky plans more activities and entertainment venues for the future.

What I learned about Igdalsky when I visited the track last month and spoke to several Pocono employees (who didn’t know I was a motorsports journalist) was how revered he is by his staff.

Not one negative word was uttered and many compliments were bestowed.

One employee told me, “Brandon is a real good guy. He has done every job here at the track from picking up garbage to painting and on up. The whole family is wonderful!”

And, the truth of the matter is, he is and they are from every account.

This weekend a fan will love Igdalsky for 100,000 different reasons. A lucky audience member who registers at the track will win $100,000 if Igdalsky’s pick to win the Pennsylvania 400 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – gets the victory.

Igdalsky got the idea while watching the Presidential campaign unfold and decided to piggy back on the idea. He has coined the event as the 2012 Presidential Pick for the last NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the 2012 season at Pocono.

In this economy the offer is thrilling and another lure for fans.

But, it is plainly obvious the crowds will gather at Pocono regardless of generous and fun offers by Igdalsky.

The city that springs up seemingly overnight at the track is a hodgepodge of people from all over the country and abroad who share a commonality while here.

Many would not miss it and, although actual statistics are not provided, several sources have told me that Pocono was the only venue on the Sprint Cup circuit that sold out both of its dates last year.

From the look of the grandstands, a sellout is probable tomorrow.

It’s easy to see why the fans are so loyal and consistently return to these major NASCAR events.

People who are family run the facility.

From Igdalsky, his brother Nicholas and their charming mother Louis Mattioli Igdalsky, to the tightknit staff and the thousands of volunteers that gather for NASCAR race weekends, everybody feels they are a part of the family. And it’s genuine.

Idgalsky’s goal for the future of Pocono Raceway is to expand its role as an entertainment center, not just a racing facility. He envisions concerts, festivals, and the like in addition to the numerous race dates scheduled throughout the year.

One thing is certain; Pocono Raceway is in the finest of hands.

Although I never had the great pleasure to meet Doc Mattioli, I can only presume that he would be supremely happy with the job his grandson is doing in steering his track into the future.

No Doubt, Keselowski Shows Signs Of Stardom

We’ve seen this before in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

A young, unheralded driver comes along and accomplishes things not expected him. His achievements are so great and so startling that, in our eyes, he transforms quickly.

Instead of a youngster who someday might be great he becomes a veteran who is now familiar and a proven success.

In seasons past, such drivers had names like Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Tim Richmond, Davey Allison and, yes, Jeff Gordon.

And now there’s Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski was thought of by many – a great many – as a developmental driver, one who, with the proper experience and nurturing, might become a driver worthy of the ride he has at Penske Racing.

As far as “developmental” goes, Keselowski seems to have gone well past that.

In his last four races, the 27-year-old driver from Rochester Hills, Mich., has won twice, finished second once and third another time.

What is mind boggling is that he has achieved this enviable streak of success while driving on a broken left ankle, which he suffered in a wreck at Road Atlanta just before the Pocono race in early August – which he won.

His rise into the competitive stratosphere continued Saturday night when he won the Irwin Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway to earn his third victory of the season – second among all competitors – and almost certainly earned at least a “wildcard” entry into the Chase.

Keselowski, who won a fuel mileage race in Kansas in June, has shot to 11th in points, just 21 points behind struggling Tony Stewart and, with his victories, is No. 1 among “wildcard” contenders.

The other driver who ranks among the top 20 who has a victory is Denny Hamlin, who is 13th in points, finished seventh at Bristol and has endured a mediocre season.

Keselowski was steady throughout the Bristol race and made his winning move as the laps wound down.

Under caution on lap 413, Keselowski pitted and came out in second place alongside Martin Truex Jr., who pitted for two tires only.

Keselowski got a jump on the restart and passed Truex Jr. on lap 421 and pulled away.

“Man, I used to watch guys like Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart win this race,” said an enthusiastic Keselowski. “This is a race of champions. Some pay more and some have more prestige, but this is the coolest one of all.”

Before Pocono, Keselowski ranked 21st in points with the lone victory at Kansas – out of Chase consideration.

But over the course of the next four races, he has climbed 10 positions in the standings and evolved into the hottest driver of the Cup circuit – something virtually no one expected.

“We’re just a team that starts to click and believe in each other,” Keselowski explained. “We’ve just made good adjustments to our car over the last few months.”

A 27-year-old driver from Rochester Hills, Mich., and a member of a racing family, Keselowski began NASCAR competition in the Camping World Truck Series in 2008, the same year he ran a couple of Sprint Cup races for Rick Hendrick.

He won at Talladega in 2009 in a wild finish with Carl Edwards while driving for James Finch, thereby giving the journeyman team owner is first Cup victory.

But most considered Keselowski’s victory at the 2.66-mile Alabama track, known for unusual finishes, nothing more than a fluke.

Roger Penske put Keselowski to work in 2010. The driver won the Nationwide Series title and competed in 36 Cup events. It took him 32 races to get his first top-10 finish, but he did earn his first career pole position at New Hampshire.

As mentioned, Keselowski was viewed as Penske’s developmental driver, a subordinate to veteran Kurt Busch, the 2004 champion.

Now, perhaps, the perception has changed. Keselowski is presently out-performing Busch, who, nevertheless, has a win and is comfortably among the top 10 in points with an eighth-place.

Busch appears destined to make the Chase, which means the odds are good both Penske cars will be in NASCAR’s “playoff.”

Stewart finished 28th at Bristol and is in danger of failing to make the Chase. If he loses his lead over Keselowski or Clint Bowyer (who, at 12th, is only a single point out of 11th), he’s out.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ninth in points, 18 ahead of Stewart with two races remaining before the Chase begins. While it’s still not certain if he’ll qualify, his position in certainly more secure than Stewart’s.

With a couple weeks to go, the Chase scenario remains uncertain. The only drivers who are assured starting positions are Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, who rank from first to fourth, respectively, in points.

Where he was once considered a long shot to make the Chase field, Keselowski is now a long shot only to NOT make it.

His accomplishments over the last month have indicated to many that he has the potential to become NASCAR’s next superstar – especially since he’s performed so well and courageously under circumstances that might have forced other competitors to the sideline.

Although he’s shown signs that it will happen, we don’t yet know if Keselowski will indeed become another Allison or Gordon.

All we do know is that the potential is certainly there. Keselowski has indeed shown us that – and in no small measure.

Pocono: Maybe Double Header Races Are Worth A Look


Last weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Pocono turned out to great race when a rain delay broke into two parts. Everyone was racing for either the rain flag or the checkered flag. Next stop is Watkins Glen, a road course. Maybe the Double Header has merit.

Summer And NASCAR Heat Up

Carl Edwards lost his points cushion at Pocono when his engine went up in smoke. The drivers battling to get into the top twelve positions for the Championship battle has heated up with a tight points race. Montoya, Biffle, Hamlin all need wins. http://www.motorsportsunplugged.com

LeMans Crash, Pocono to Gordon, Canadian GP, Indy

Jeff Gordon got what he needed at Pocono, a win. LeMans was crash filled with Alan McNIsh walking away from a visual horror (Video). Jenson Button cracked Vettel’s armor and Dario Franchitti and Will Power split the Texas Indycar race. http://www.motorsportsunplugged.com

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