By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer
It’s safe to say Brad Keselowski has officially hit his stride at the perfect time. In what was an even-keeled afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway for the No. 6 crew – in an otherwise chaotic Round of 12 opener for opposing NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs contenders – the RFK Racing team may have the competition exactly where they want them heading into one of the biggest unknowns of the season.
Keselowski began the day joining Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch as the only three drivers to have nine appearances in the Round of 12 since the format was introduced 10 years ago. He took the green flag for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 from the second row in the third-position after matching his best qualifying effort of the season.
From there, the second-year driver-owner went on to run around the back-half of the top-10 for a majority of the race before settling for a seventh-place finish and 34-point outing.
“We didn’t need all those wrecks there at the end of the race, because I thought our car was very strong and capable of getting to the front with the newer tires we had,” Keselowski said. “I think we were [up to] fourth or fifth, but then they kept wrecking so much that we didn’t get a chance to take advantage of it and were only able to get back up to seventh.
“There were big ups and downs today. I missed some things that I needed to do better that probably cost us a point or two in the second stage. All in all it was a great effort today for us and we scored a lot of points and didn’t beat ourselves. I’m really proud of that.”
In scoring his 15th top-10 of the year, Keselowski extended his quality-finishing streak to five races, which goes back to the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway. Also not to be overlooked, “Bad Brad” is the only driver to place top-10 in all four playoff events.
On top of statistically being the most consistent driver in the playoffs, Keselowski is carrying Texas-sized confidence into a place where most all feel uncomfortable – Talladega Superspeedway.
Since his infamous maiden Cup win at the 2.66-mile track, Keselowski has gone on to tie Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for second on the all-time wins list at Talladega with six, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
History aside, he’s continued to stand the test of time by contending for wins in every superspeedway event in 2023.
This year alone, Keselowski has two runner-ups with 116 laps led and a 7.4 average between five drafting events. One of those second-place finishes took place in the most recent superspeedway race, which began his current top-10 streak and saw him push teammate Chris Buescher to his third win of the season.
Keselowski is hopeful to be in the same position – but one better – by time the checkered-flag waves in the YellaWood 500 at Talladega on October 1. He currently sits seventh in the standings eight points above the cutoff heading into the second Round of 12 race.
“We’re in the hunt with both cars and it’s an exciting time for us all at RFK.” Keselowski said. “I feel like we need to make another step to get to where the 11 car … the No. 5 and some of the other guys are, but we’re knocking on the door.
“We’re bringing a good effort – the same effort we brought to Daytona – and hopefully we can have the same result.”