Keselowski reveals blueprint for beating Johnson

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Is there a game plan for defeating Jimmie Johnson in a head-to-head battle for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title? Brad Keselowski seems to think so. And he should know, having outlasted Johnson for the title in last yea...

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Is there a game plan for defeating Jimmie Johnson in a head-to-head battle for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title?

Brad Keselowski seems to think so. And he should know, having outlasted Johnson for the title in last year's Chase.

Forget race day. The way Keselowski sees it, the time to start putting pressure on Johnson is the moment the cars hit the track for their first practice session, typically on Friday before a Sunday race.

That's what Keselowski said he did last year at Phoenix International Raceway, site of Sunday's AdvoCare 500, the next-to-last race in the Chase.

"There were some practice sessions where I got by him and ran him really hard and had a lot of fun with it," Keselowski said Thursday night at the Penske Racing Museum in Scottsdale after the induction of his 2012 championship car. "And in the race, he drove the car too hard until it blew out a tire.


"You can look at it and say, 'Oh, it was a tire failure,' or whatever, but those in the garage who know how the tires work know that it was reaching too hard and a failure that was caused from that. I feel quite confident in that."

Johnson's tire problem at Phoenix turned the Chase race upside-down. The five-time champion had entered the race with a seven-point lead over Keselowski, the same margin he holds over Kenseth with two races left this year.

Keselowski's advice to Kenseth? Race Johnson as hard as you can.

"For them (Johnson's No. 48 team), I wouldn't want to have to race somebody that's going to race me hard, because that's not their wheelhouse," Keselowski said. "I think that was one of our strengths last year. If I was going to give Matt a piece of advice, I'd say 'Use the (crap) out of him.'

"Run him hard, because that's his weakness."

Before opening NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at PIR on Friday, Johnson took issues with Keselowski's comments.

"I guess we need to ask Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards -- Who else have I raced for a championship -- how we race," Johnson said. "We race hard. That's not a weakness of ours, by any stretch."

Johnson, however, did acknowledge that he learned something from last year's Phoenix race.


"Last year here, they (Keselowski) were better than us, for sure," Johnson said. "We worked real hard to play catch-up through the course of the weekend. Sure, we had a tire failure, and yes, we overworked the tire. We created an issue for ourselves. We were lacking some speed.

"The No. 2 had us covered the entire time here, and that particular run where the tire blew, I look back on it and think, 'Man, if I would have preserved my tire a little bit more and didn't overwork my equipment and didn't speed up that tire blowing and create that issue, we would go to Homestead with a much smaller deficit and have a much better chance of racing (for the championship).

"So that's the lesson I take from last year's race here."


Jimmie Johnson built his seven-point advantage with a dominating performance last Sunday at Texas, where he scored the maximum 48 points to fourth-place finisher Kenseth's 41.

Though Kenseth would prefer to be the Chase leader, he's not one to worry about it.

"I don't sit and worry about the next race track coming up, because worrying is just a waste of energy, a waste of time," Kenseth said. "Certainly, I try to be as prepared as I can when we come to the track ... try to look at what you've done in the past, what you can do better coming back and try to improve on the things you did good, try to improve on the things you did bad and try to be better at that.

"Kind of go over a plan for what we're looking for, what we want to accomplish, that type of thing. I wouldn't say 'worry' is the right word. I haven't worried at all, really. Just trying to be as prepared as we can and as ready as we can when we get here."


Kenseth has reason for optimism. In his first open-motor event with Joe Gibbs Racing, on March 3 at Phoenix, Kenseth finished seventh, his best result at the one-mile track since 2010.

"We had a good run here in the spring," Kenseth said. "It was my first race with the team, really, besides plate racing. We had a really competitive car, and we've been good at these kinds of tracks.

"I'm looking forward to the weekend."


With a donation of $50,000, NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France and wife Amy France helped raise nearly $1 million in support of the families of military service men and women wounded in action.

The Frances attended the "Stand Up For Heroes" benefit Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City, an event presented by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the New York Comedy Festival to raise money for post-9/11 service members and their families.

"Brian and I were honored to make this donation to support our military servicemen and women and their families, who make incredible sacrifices each and every day to help protect our nation," Amy France said.

Renowned musicians Bruce Springsteen and Roger Waters performed at the benefit, as did iconic comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby.

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