Brad Keselowski may be off to an outstanding start this season, but he isn’t breathing easy.
On Sunday afternoon at Martinsville, the No. 2 Team Penske Ford led 446 of 500 laps en route to its second win in six races. Keselowski now has an average finish of 6.3 for the season including four top-10 finishes, has two stage wins, and 538 laps led, and sits top five in points.
But the NASCAR season is long. There are still 20 races remaining before the playoffs start, and then a team must be near-perfect to advance through each round.
So how will Keselowski keep his team from being complacent?
“I think about that every day,” he said after winning the STP 500. “Every day I wake up in the morning and say, am I better today than I was yesterday? And if I’m not, and if we’re not, we’re going to lose. That’s the simple matter of this.
“The sport is very dynamic. Technology is changing every day. Somewhere out there right now, someone is working on the next advancement that’s going to be critical to winning the playoffs, and we don’t know about it. Might be another team, might be someone in our own group. If we stay stagnant, it’s guaranteed we will fall. So I think about it every day.”
Last season, Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe were a quiet force for much of the season. It wasn’t until the summer months as the postseason approached that the team began to peak, and from Darlington they went on a tear of three straight wins. While Keselowski didn’t advance to the title round, he had five top-10 finishes in the playoffs, and led laps in nine of the 10 playoff races.
Keselowski has led laps in four of the six races so far this season, which is a series high. And now with his second victory (making him the second repeat winner of the year) and two stage wins, he also has the second-most playoff points.
Going forward, the 2012 series champion said the only way he knows how to keep complacency in check is to be “super annoying” to his team.
“All I know is to go in and sit in on meetings and ask questions that make people squirm, and watch their face,” said Keselowski. “And when they squirm, are they squirming because they should be squirming, or are they squirming because they just don’t want to work? And that’s all I know. I wish I was smarter than that. I wish I was better than that. But all I know how to do is read their body language and see if they’ve got more than I think they’ve got, or if this is all we’ve got and push those people.
“It’s a really tough thing to do. I would rather it be a lot simpler than that, and I just have the fastest car and not have to worry about it, but that’s not how it’s been at least in my career, and that’s OK. It means I take more pride when we do win, and I feel like that’s a good thing.”