Brad Keselowski determined to win in home state after a career of 'almost’ at MIS

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Brad Keselowski is coming back home this week to compete in the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, hoping to celebrate in Victory Lane for the first time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series at the two-mile speedway.

Keselowski, a 35-year-old native of Rochester Hills, is having a strong season, winning three races in the new Ford Mustang for Team Penske.

Brad Keselowski

But while Keselowski has enjoyed his share of success in the series, with 30 wins during his 10-plus year career, he has yet to win at MIS in 20 starts in the premier series.

Keselowski has been close, finishing second in the August race at MIS last year.

“It’s interesting, the races where we’ve had the speed to win, we’ve either had terrible luck or miscues on my part or the team’s part, and haven’t been able to bring it home,” said Keselowski of racing at MIS. “Conversely, the races we’ve executed perfectly and done everything right, we haven’t been fast enough, so that leaves us with a lot of top-fives, a lot of top-10s and a lot of almost. Hopefully, we can break out of the almost category. Hopefully, we can convert that into a win.”

Keselowski finished sixth at MIS in June with NASCAR’s new rules package where the cars have less horsepower and more drag and downforce. Corner speeds are up and straightaway speeds are down, putting the draft in play more for drivers.

Keselowski won the 2012 series championship to hand Roger Penske his first Cup championship. His teammate, Joey Logano, won the series title for Team Penske last season. Logano also won the June race at MIS.

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano

MIS remains a special venue for Keselowski, despite being shut out in Cup races there.

“I would say between the Daytona 500 and Michigan, they are about equal to me personally,” Keselowski said. “It would be the biggest win of my career, I could tell you that. I hope we can do it. I have a lot of faith that if we keep the things that we’ve been doing that it will happen. For whatever reason it hasn’t happened yet. I know we’re right there.”

Keselowski added: “There’s no track like Michigan. It’s the fastest one on the circuit, which I think is pretty cool. Now, with this year’s rules, it’s a little bit slower than it used to be, the cars are a little closer together.

“I enjoy running it when we have a fast car. We had a really fast race car this spring. We had a pit road issue, and gosh I wish it wouldn’t have happened because I think we would have won.”

Keselowski knows why NASCAR went with the new rules package.

“I wear multiple hats and the first hat I wear as a race car driver is someone who cares about the quality of racing we put on and the safety of the fans,” Keselowski said. “We had the cars where they were going so fast that we had a safety hazard, not as much to the drivers but to the fans.

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“These cars will go in the air and fly at about 165 mph, and we were going 220. Now, that’s when they’re going backward. But, if you do the math, usually when a car spins out it loses about 20-to-30 mph. Well, that’s still over that 165 take-off speed. And, we really didn’t need to put a car in the grandstand, just to say we were going 220 mph. So I respect the fact that NASCAR stepped in and said we need to go in and slow them down and make it a little bit safer for everybody. I think that’s the right move.

“But also I wear my hat as a fan and advocate for the sport and the racing is certainly more closer on these bigger race tracks because of these rules. As a pure race car driver that wants to go the fastest that I can possibly go, of course I miss going 220. But, I think you have to balance all of those things out to try to determine what’s for the greater good.”

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex have topped the charts with a series-high four wins, with their teammate and Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin winning three times.

Busch is the points leader, holding a 13-point lead over Logano.

Still, Keselowski feels fortunate to drive for Penske. He believes he has a shot at the championship.

“I’m very fortunate to get to drive for someone like Roger, especially when you consider everything he’s done in the state of Michigan,” Keselowski said. “I want to win at MIS so bad for him.

“We’ll have a good shot at it (championship). Of course, we have to execute, but what kind of speed we’re able to develop in our cars over the next two or three months will set us up for a playoff run. That will be a huge factor. Right now, the Gibbs cars have a little more speed than most everybody, but that’s very dynamic and always changing. We have some work to do, but I’m confident we can get it done.”

Consumers Energy 400

When: Sunday, 3 p.m.

Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn 

TV: NBCSN

Support race: NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Corrigan Oil 200, Saturday, 1 p.m.