Brad Keselowski is having a bipolar sort of season.
He’s up. He’s down. He’s all around.
It began with a 32nd-place run at Daytona, a bad day that faded somewhat into the background when Keselowski finished a solid fifth the next week at Phoenix.
Then there was a 32nd at Las Vegas, followed by Keselowski’s win at Bristol.
An 18th at Auto Club Speedway. Then a ninth at Martinsville and a 36th last week at Texas.
The Texas finish dropped Keselowski to 15th in points, a three-position fall.
Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway should give Keselowski a golden opportunity to rise again. In last season’s races at the 1.5-mile track, he won in the spring and finished third (to Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne) in the fall Chase race.
“As a race car driver, it's really hard to try to reflect back on past successes as you are trying to continue to move forward and progress,” Keselowski said. “I've always said that past success, or failure for that matter, doesn't guarantee anything for the future.
“There is no doubt, though, that this Miller Lite Dodge team is in a different place than we were prior to the race at Kansas last spring. I think, going back to our Nationwide Series championship year in 2010, Paul (crew chief Paul Wolfe) and I always knew we could get it done at this level. He has done a great job in building a very good team, which makes all the
difference. Now, we go to the track expecting to be one of the cars to beat.”
Wolfe said the team will put added emphasis on qualifying this weekend.
“We've been very happy with our race setup at Kansas, and I think our stats from last year prove that,” he said. “A win and a third-place finish is about as good as it gets. Our focus, as it was last fall, will be on qualifying. Even though we won the spring race from the 25th position, track position is very important.
“Once we got Brad out front in that race, it was almost like we gave him a completely different Miller Lite Dodge. If we can qualify up front, I'm confident that Brad can keep the car up there all day and we can be there at the end."
It’s a double-dip weekend for Keselowski, who is scheduled to race his truck in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series event.
Two rounds of Sprint Cup practice are scheduled at the track Friday. Sprint Cup qualifying is scheduled at noon (ET) Saturday, and the race is scheduled at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.