Keselowski carrying the weight of revamped No.2 team into title decider

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Keselowski carrying the weight of revamped No.2 team into title decider

NASCAR

Keselowski carrying the weight of revamped No.2 team into title decider

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Brad Keselowski is taking on a bigger role as leader of Penske’s No.2 team given its championship inexperience.

Keselowski, the NASCAR Cup Series champion from 2012, believes he’s the only member of the No.2 team who has won a title. That feat eight years ago came alongside Paul Wolfe. This year, Keselowski has been paired with crew chief Jeremy Bullins along with an entirely new crew.

Bullins and the No. 2 team that supports Keselowski were once the No. 12 team with Ryan Blaney, a group that delivered its best points finish of seventh last year.

Competing for the championship as one of the last four teams standing is a big occasion. As such, Keselowski is stepping up even more this week going into the finale (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC) to be prepared for the winner-take-all race.

“I definitely feel the weight on my shoulders as far as leading the team, being the sole member that’s won a Cup championship before,” said Keselowski during Championship 4 Media Day. “There’s also a great sense of pride I take in that, and I think mutual respect that we all have for each other as a team accordingly, and that’s okay. I’m really relishing the position I have within my team right now.”

Three of Keselowski’s over the wall pit crew members started on his Truck Series team and have graduated into the Cup Series.

“I’m super-excited for them,” he said. “I’ve been with them and helped them from kind of day one when they had never pitted a race car before and now here they are competing for a Cup championship. That just gives me butterflies deep down inside.”

As one of two drivers from Team Penske with a shot at the championship, Keselowski and Bullins have validated the pre-season team shuffle by team owner Roger Penske. An appearance in the title race also shows how successful a team’s season was.

Keselowski, Bullins, and company have won four races this season. They also have the second-most top-10 finishes in the series (23) behind Kevin Harvick (26).

Bullins is making his first Championship 4 appearance in his fifth full season at the Cup level. Sunday will be the second time Keselowski has competed for the championship under this format.

“I’m super-pumped for Jeremy Bullins; he came through the Xfinity team and how he’s grown and just keeps getting better,” said Keselowski. “Our communication is rock solid, on point, whatever you want to call it. I just feel really good about it. I want to win a championship of course for myself, but as much as I want to win it for myself, I want to see the people I’m around get that opportunity like I had before to enjoy it, to celebrate it.

“They’re encouraged. They’re motivated and in a great spot. I’m happy for them. It’s good to see us fight through the adversity you know you’re going to have in these playoffs.  We’ve gone through nine races; a few of them have gone really well, a few went really bad and a lot went right in between and we’ve overcome the adversity and got this far. I’m ready to finish it off. I think our team is, too.

“We know Sunday is not going to be easy. We don’t know what’s going to get thrown at us, but I’m sure something will get thrown at us, and when it comes at us I’m going to do the best I can and I’m confident my team will, too, to brush it aside and move on and keep our head down on the goal to win the race and ultimately the championship.”

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