While Denny Hamlin was celebrating his fifth win of the season on Thursday night, Brad Keselowski wasn’t feeling down about being the runner-up.
“Silently, (this is) one of the best years of my career, maybe not wins-wise,” said Keselowski. “I’m very, very happy. Hopeful we can get up another notch so we can dominate and showcase ourselves as the Ford to beat.”
Keselowski has finished no worse than ninth in the last four races, and Kansas was his 14th top-10 finish of the season — second-most in the series. His worst result over the previous six races is an 11th-place finish in the second Pocono race. The Team Penske driver is second in the overall point standings with the second-best average finish of any driver in the series.
His win column, as Keselowski noted, has two marks compared to Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, who has won four times and leads the way. Keselowski finished in between those two drivers at Kansas.
“It’s always so hard to say,” said Keselowski on whether it was a championship preview. “You look at the way the playoffs are, a lot of wild card races in there with the Roval. Bristol is in there. I’m sure a few more I’m failing to remember here at the moment.
“I sure would be glad if we were one of them. I can tell you that.”
Keselowski led 30 laps in the Super Start Batteries 400 and would like to say he could have caught Hamlin for the win, but he isn’t sure. Hamlin took the lead with 13 laps to go, and Keselowski got to second with nine laps remaining. While the margin of victory was less than a second, Keselowski was never close enough to apply pressure to Hamlin or have a good look at the lead.
“All in all, a good night,” said Keselowski. “Good speed. Not as good as the Gibbs cars. They were super, super strong. We’ve got a little bit of work to do. They brought something new the last two weeks, really shown a lot of strength in the drivetrain. We have to do a little bit of work to keep up with that. Other than that, we were right there. The team did a great job of adjusting the car during the race, got us a little better as the race went on. We were in position, led some laps.
“It really came down to the last few restarts, who got the clean air, who pushed who. I just couldn’t quite get in front of Denny; I was a little bit faster than he was once we were up to speed, but not anywhere as fast as he was getting up to speed. Once he got the clean air, he was able to defend. That was the story of our night.
“Proud of our effort; won a stage. We’re doing the right things.”
Keselowski earned a single-single high 25 top-10 finishes in 2015. Last year, he earned 19 top-10 finishes. In 2012, when Keselowski won the championship, he had an overall average finish of 10.1 and, leaving Kansas, his average finish sits at 8.9.