No head games for Keselowski ahead of Martinsville cutoff

John Harrelson/Motorsport Images

No head games for Keselowski ahead of Martinsville cutoff

NASCAR

No head games for Keselowski ahead of Martinsville cutoff

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A lot rides on Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway for Brad Keselowski.

The Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC) is the final elimination race of the playoffs and will set the four finalists for the championship. Meaning it is the last chance for Keselowski to jump above the cutline and make a return appearance in the Championship 4. It’s also the last chance for Keselowski to contend for one more championship with Roger Penske.

“I have allowed my head to go into that space a couple of times,” Keselowski said this week. “It’s a dangerous spot to get in because it distracts from the focus of putting it all together, so I tried to shut my brain off of that as soon as it goes in that spot, but clearly, it would mean the world to me to be able to do that for him (Penske) and do it for our team in our last year together.”

With his impending departure from the Team Penske organization after 12 years and the fact that the No. 2 hasn’t been a dominant force this year, Keselowski has likely gone overlooked by some. He knows that. So, if the former series champion could grab one of the three spots available in the title race, it would “absolutely” bring a sense of satisfaction.

“I think it would be a huge testament to the team, not just myself, but the entire team of our resolve and overall mental toughness,” Keselowski said. “It certainly would be a point of pride if we were able to pull that off. We’ve got a great opportunity.

“We’re six points back. We have control of our destiny if we win the race. Even if we don’t win the race, realistically, if we put up a lot of stage points and do all those things, we’ve got a great shot, so I feel pretty good about this weekend.”

Martinsville has been a happy hunting ground for Keselowski and company recently. Matt Thacker/Motorsport Images

Keselowski and Martinsville have been a perfect pair in recent years. Dating back to the 2015 season (the last 13 races), Keselowski’s only finished outside the top 10 twice. During that span, he’s won twice and led a whopping 881 laps. That includes the ’19 victory where Keselowski led 445 of 500 laps.

“I always get excited about going there,” he said.

A six-point deficit can be overcome without winning. Keselowski will need to leapfrog the two drivers in front of him, who are also below the cutline, as well as Kyle Busch, who holds the last transfer spot.

“(Six points) doesn’t affect my mentality,” said Keselowski. “If you compare it to last year, we had a great race at Martinsville. We scored stage points — a lot of stage points — ended the race, I think fourth or fifth. Under that scenario, I don’t know how many points we scored, but it was probably upper 40s. That would probably be enough for this weekend, so if we can just repeat that, we’d be in a good spot.”

 

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