With the regular season in the Sprint Cup Series now reaching the halfway point, Brad Keselowski is hoping to get back on track to avoid fear of missing out on this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, is currently 10th in the point standings and has yet to win a race this year. He is just three points ahead of 11th-place Kyle Busch, who already has two victories for the season.
The top 10 in points after the Sept. 7 race at Richmond will qualify for the Chase. The two wild card positions will go to those drivers between 11th-20th in points that have the most wins.
Keselowski sat third in points following his sixth-place finish in the April 21 race at Kansas, but he has finished 15th or worse in the four events since then, dropping him six positions in the standings. Last Sunday at Charlotte, Keselowski had his streak of 46 races without a DNF come to an end when he was caught up in an accident with Danica Patrick late in the race. He finished a season-worse 36th.
This weekend, the series will be at Dover for race 13 in the 26-race regular season. Dover could be where Keselowski's season moves in the right direction again. Here are two reasons why.
Several key members on Keselowski's No. 2 Penske Racing team, including crew chief Paul Wolfe, are back after serving their suspensions for two points- paying races due to illegal parts found on his car prior to the start of the April 13 event at Texas. Car chief Jerry Kelley, team engineer Brian Wilson and team manager Travis Geisler were suspended as well. NASCAR had penalized each member with a six-race suspension, but National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook reduced it to two after Penske made its final appeal.
Kevin Buskirk served as Keselowski's crew chief at Darlington (May 11) and Charlotte, as well as the all-star race (May 18).
"It's going to be nice to get all of our guys back," Keselowski said. "We have one of the strongest teams in the garage. I'm very proud of everyone that stepped up during the last three weeks. We've really improved our depth at Penske Racing, but now everyone can go back to their normal jobs. Hopefully that means we can get some of our mojo back."
Keselowski won the most recent Sprint Cup race at Dover last September, which was the third event in the Chase. He has not been to victory lane since then.
"I'd like to have one, and I feel like this is the week to get it done," said Keselowski, who presently has a 19-race winless streak. "I feel like we've been very, very fast and very under the radar because we haven't one, qualified well, or, two, executed in the race."
Prior to his win in the fall 2012 race, Keselowski had finished no better than 12th in five starts at Dover.
If Keselowski fails to qualify for the Chase this year, he would be become the second driver to miss the playoffs in NASCAR's premier series following his championship season. In 2006, Tony Stewart did not make the Chase after winning the series title the year prior.
"I would certainly like to be in a better position than where I'm at right now," Keselowski noted.
Jimmie Johnson enters this race with a 32-point lead over Carl Edwards. Johnson won at Dover one year ago. He claimed his seventh victory at this track, placing him in a tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most wins here.
"I'm extremely proud of that," Johnson said. "I've worked hard to put myself in this position and so does the team, and we've been able to capitalize on those opportunities and hard work and get stuff done."
Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the FedEx 400.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, June 2. Race: FedEx 400. Site: Dover International Speedway. Track: 1-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m. ET. Laps: 400. Miles: 400. 2012 Winner: Jimmie Johnson. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.