Thursday Notebook: Keselowski believes he has an edge at KentuckySeeing red; no bad blood between Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
SPARTA, Ky. — A cursory look at Brad Keselowski's position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings might give the impression that the driver of the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford is on a precarious perch.
But Keselowski doesn't feel that way — and that's especially true at Kentucky Speedway, where he'll compete in all three of NASCAR's top touring series this weekend.
As the Race to the Chase begins — the final stretch of 10 events before the Chase field is set at Richmond — Keselowski is ninth in the standings without a victory, just nine points ahead of Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard, who are tied for 11th.
Without a win on his side of the ledger, Keselowski doesn't have a claim to one of the two Chase wild card berths, should he fall out of the top 10. If Keselowski is worried, though, he isn't showing it.
"Thankfully, if you look at the tradition of my team — if you can say there is one — over the last two seasons, it's that we really seemed to hit our mark about this time of the season, and I don't think that's coincidence,” Keselowski said Thursday before Camping World Truck Series qualifying.
"Kentucky Speedway really fits my style. There's a couple of unique characteristics about it, and that's why I picked this weekend to run all three. I felt like here and Bristol are probably two of my best tracks, and we need to capitalize on that, certainly on the Cup side—have another strong run, and hopefully come away with the race win, which I think we have a very strong shot at, and I'd love to do that in the other two series as well.”
Keselowski is the defending winner of the Quaker State 400. In addition, he has five starts in the Nationwide Series—all top 10s with one victory—and three starts in the Truck Series. Give that the Cup series didn't begin racing at Kentucky until 2011, Keselowski has an experience advantage over most other Cup competitors.
"It's one of the few tracks where I've always kind of felt heads-up to the field,” Keselowski said. "This is my fourth full year in Sprint Cup, and in some ways it feels like I've been here forever, and in some ways it feels like I haven't.
"When you go to tracks like Texas and Atlanta, places like that where there's a fair amount of drivers that have quite a bit more experience than I do, so I just feel like I'm one little step behind. Here at Kentucky there's no other driver that has more experience than me. We're on even footing all the way. In fact, if anything, I feel like I might be even slightly up, because I have a couple more Nationwide starts, and I'd say that probably leads to my comfort here.”
With University of Louisville basketball star Russ Smith in attendance Friday afternoon, Michael Waltrip Racing unveiled the No. 55 Toyota that Brian Vickers will drive Saturday night in honor of the Cardinals' NCAA championship this season.
"We want to come here and win, on behalf of (primary sponsor) Aaron's and Louisville, hopefully take some of the success they had this year and take that championship and turn it into a victory,” Vickers said. "For me it's an honor to have them on the car, but we really have to thank Aaron's for that.”
Aaron's agreed to cede its normal place on the hood of the No. 55 Camry to Louisville.
Team owner Michael Waltrip is a Kentucky native, and last year he drove a car honoring the national championship won by the University of Kentucky, Louisville's archrival.
"Michael drove last year for the enemy, for the wrong team—is that right?” Vickers said.
"It depends on who you ask,” Waltrip shot back.
"Not being from Kentucky, I don't fully appreciate, I don't think, the rivalry between these two teams,” Vickers added. "But what I am honored to have is the opportunity to drive the Louisville Cardinal car this Saturday night, and hopefully we can take their success and put it in Victory Lane.”
NO BAD BLOOD
Don't believe for a second that there's trouble between teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing.
When Kyle Busch said Friday, "I hate Matt Kenseth,” it was a joking reference to last year's Slinger Super Nationals at Slinger (Wis.) Speedway, where Busch felt Kenseth got the benefit of a home state call when the two squared off in Super Late Models.
The drivers will compete again outside the Sprint Cup Series on July 9 in the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 at the Milwaukee Mile. Just because Kenseth signed on with Joe Gibbs Racing this season, don't expect the teammates to cut each other slack in the Super Late Models.
"At short track events, I hate Matt Kenseth,” Busch said to general laughter. "He cheated last year and won the Slinger Nationals. That's why I'm never going back to Slinger. Hometown hero gets favoritism. At my home track (in Las Vegas), they would have DQ'd me three times.”
Because the Milwaukee race is scheduled for a Tuesday, the event has already drawn more than 80 entries for 43 starting spots, Busch said.
"There's a lot of good talent that comes to that race, from the South, from the Northeast, from the Midwest and everywhere,” he added.