Brad Keselowski knows that barring a catastrophe, he will win the 2010 Nationwide Series title.
All Keselowski has to do is start each of the final three races to clinch the championship. If he finishes 21st or better Saturday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, he also secures the title.
Keselowski has no finish worse than 21st all season.
“To be there and in sight of it is a pretty awesome goal,” Keselowski said. “I’m still running worse-case scenarios through my mind like don’t break a leg getting out of a rental car and stuff like that. … But it looks really good and I’m proud of what we’ve done to get to this point.”
What Keselowski has done is post six wins, 23 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes. In the 32 races, he’s had only one finish worse than 20th – a 21st at Chicagoland.
“I’m not going to cruise,” Keselowski said. “You just don’t count on anything. Anything can happen. I could break my leg tomorrow and not be able to drive the last three races.
“That doesn’t mean that I’m going to do anything stupid. It is a pretty awesome accomplishment. I hope it’s something that I can look back on for years to come and think about how awesome this year has been. I’m pretty proud of it.”
And he did it all with a new team at Penske Racing. Keselowski was new to the team as was crew chief Paul Wolfe, who came from CJM Racing. The entire group started from the ground floor up as Penske expanded its Nationwide operation from one to two teams.
“I expected to run good but there was an expectation that breakdowns would be a problem – normal problems with a new team, parts left loose,” Keselowski said. “Without testing, you don’t have a real chance to really R&D things or look for failures. You would think that those things would pop up, but knock on wood, they haven’t.
“I would say that there was an expectation that it’s going to be hard to win a championship with a new team from that standpoint alone. … It was a lot to ask coming into the season to win the championship this year. It just makes it that much sweeter.”
Wolfe and Keselowski seemed to click immediately. After winning at Talladega in the eighth race of the season, Keselowski has led the points the rest of the year. He followed Talladega with a Richmond win, then also won at Nashville, Michigan, Charlotte and Gateway.
“We have good communication and he builds fast race cars,” Keselowski said. “Between the two, that’s what it takes. … For some reason, we just complement each other. Some of the areas that I think about are different [from what] he thinks about.
“I feel trapped when I don’t have a fast race car because I don’t necessarily know how to make it fast and Paul knows how to make it fast.”
The championship would be the first NASCAR title for a Roger Penske driver. For the team to win the owners title, it still needs to overcome a 71-point deficit to the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team.
“It’s very strange to walk through the building and see all those Indy 500 pictures where’s he’s won and not see a NASCAR championship,” Keselowski said. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s pictures of him with Ryan [Newman] or Kurt [Busch] throughout the years and even Rusty [Wallace].
“It’s unbelievable that there’s not one of him holding a [NASCAR] championship trophy. When I came to Penske Racing, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to win him a championship. That makes it more special.”