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CUP: Keselowski Riding High Into Bristol

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It’s quite understandable if Brad Keselowski is in a hurry to get to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.

Keselowski has launched a splendid effort to defend the Sprint Cup championship he won last season. Through the late-winter stretch of the schedule, he sits as the only driver who has scored top-five finishes in all three races, and he’s only five points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, the guy he successfully battled over the closing weeks of last season.

Points After Las Vegas

Keselowski’s third-place run Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was his first top-10 finish at that track. Adding that to fourth-place runs at Daytona and Phoenix, it’s clear that the Michigan driver is building on the foundation that lifted him to a first Sprint Cup title last year.

Now Bristol, where Keselowski started his run to the 2012 title by winning the Food City 500.

“The spring race last year at Bristol was a race I will never forget,” Keselowski said. “That is by far the best car I think I have ever had. I had a pretty good car last week but wasn’t able to capitalize on it.

“That car at Bristol was phenomenal. To be able to lead a bunch of laps at that facility – I have said a couple times what Bristol means to me and that hasn’t changed.”

Keselowski led 232 laps – including the final 111 – to win last year’s race.

PHOTOS: Kez Wins At Bristol

Keselowski has two wins and two top fives at BMS. He also won the late-summer night race in 2011.

Although he has had success at Bristol, Keselowski remains a relative newcomer to the half-mile, super-fast track. Every driver in the top nine of the current point standings has raced at least 14 times at Bristol, and some have very high numbers – Mark Martin 46, Dale Earnhardt Jr.. 26, Matt Kenseth 26.

By comparison, Keselowski will start Bristol race No. 7 Sunday.

He is one of only 12 drivers in the track’s five-decade history to win consecutive races at BMS.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.