Brad Keselowski Championship Contender?

Jeff Gordon Regards Keselowski as a Contender

Four-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon thinks that Brad Keselowski and his Penske Racing team are a formidable opponent. Meet Jeff Gordon Nov. 20th and help out AARP and the Drive to End Hunger (photo courtesy: Chris Graythen, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

With Bristol last weekend’s stop on “The Road to a Miami Championship,” the attention continues to focus on the Wild Card element. Who’s the hottest driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? Brad Keselowski? At Bristol Saturday night, Keselowski picked up his third victory of the year and all but assured himself a spot in the Chase. There are only two races left for the “bubble” drivers to make their mark and race their way into the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
 
Once the checkered flag waves at Richmond September 10, the field will be set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Keselowski was a long shot, at best, to race for the NASCAR championship this season. Now, he's the hottest driver in NASCAR and is forcing everyone to consider him a serious threat to unseat five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson.

Keselowski picked up his third win of the season -- second since breaking his ankle in an Aug. 3 crash -- and took a huge step toward making the Chase. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

"I don't know what more to say about Brad and the (Penske Racing) team," said four-time champion Jeff Gordon. "They're strong, and you put them in position at the end of the race, they're going to pull off the wins. They're, to me, as strong of a team out there right now."

He sat 21st in points four races ago, when his struggling team went to a test session to work on road course improvement. But Keselowski was in a nasty accident during that session that left him with a broken ankle.

Since the accident, Keselowski won at Pocono, finished second at Watkins Glen, third at Michigan and now adds Bristol to his win total.

"An awesome car, an awesome team!" he yelled. "Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt won this race. It's a race of champions. There are races that pay more, that are races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all."

But Keselowski regretted all the post-race celebratory jumps about an hour after the race.

"Stupid is as stupid does," he said. "Last 100 laps I was certainly starting to feel it. But you know, I don't think anybody wants to hear me whine. Every once in a while I do and they tell me just to shut up anyway, and it hasn't been very productive. It obviously has felt better. I wish I wouldn't have jumped off the damned car."

The win moved Keselowski up one more spot to 11th in the standings, and he's jumped 10 spots over the last four races. He's currently in position to claim the first wild card spot, and could clinch his berth next week at Atlanta by virtue of his three wins.

There are two races left to determine those drivers eligible for the Chase For The Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Other Chase hopefuls had a rough outing in Tennessee.

NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer began the race ranked ninth, 10th and 11th in the Championship standings, but because none has a victory, they could get bumped out of the Chase depending on how the wild cards develop. Earnhardt wasn't a factor Saturday night and finished 16th, Bowyer struggled the entire race and was 26th and Stewart had a miserable weekend -- he qualified last in the 43-car field, was quickly lapped and finished four laps down in 28th.

It was no better for Paul Menard, who could earn a wild card spot based on his victory at Indianapolis. But he struggled, ran into the back of Denny Hamlin as they tried to avoid an accident in front of them, and wound up 30th.

Hamlin, clinging to one of the wild cards, rallied to finish seventh despite Menard running into the back of his car to cause serious damage. He jumped one spot in the standings to 13th and is currently holding the second wild card because of his one win this season.

"We did what we had to do," Hamlin said. "I wish I could race harder, but at this point we have to have solid finishes. If we just handle business the next couple weeks then we'll be OK."

There are two races left to determine those drivers eligible for the Chase For The Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

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